Cooperating for a whale rescue at Fethiye shores .hurriyet2008-detailbox-newslink { font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size:13px; font-weight:bold; text-decoration:none; color:#000000;} .hurriyet2008-detailbox-newslink:hover { font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size:13px; font-weight:bold; text-decoration:underline; color:#990000;} FETHİYE - One of the rarest species of whale ever sighted on the Turkish coast was saved by a brave act of international cooperation in Fethiye. She was mistaken for a dolphin at first but then confirmed as a Sowerby’s Beaked Whale.

A commendably brave act of international cooperation in Fethiye, organized by marine biologist Meryem Tekin, has saved one of the rarest species of whale ever sighted on the Turkish coast.

The adult female Sowerby’s Beaked Whale measured just less than 5 meters and weighed approximately 1 ton. ’There have been erroneous reports describing it as a dolphin but when its size and features are understood there is no question of what it is,’ says Tekin.

Fethiye’s resident marine biologist Meryem Tekin on Jan. 9 was told there was a dolphin in the shipyard and as the darkness fell, she donned her wetsuit and boots to examine the new arrival. The large, gray creature was wallowing in the shallows, underneath the hulks of yachts and gullets and surrounded by industrial paraphernalia.

’Not Flipper’
"Although at that stage I was not able to identify the species, I knew full well that the size, position of the dorsal fin, width of the tail and the shape of the eyes meant that this was no ’Flipper’ but rather a whale," she said.

Later that evening, with the help of local and international marine environment organizations and individuals from Turkey and Europe, together with the massive database of Google, it was suggested that it was a female adult Sowerby’s Beaked Whale, Mesoplodon Bidens, which was later confirmed by British marine veterinary expert James Barnett. A species of which little is known owing to their intensely private nature, with the result that there is little or no available research.

The Coast Guard sent two young men who sped over in their Zodiac boat did all they could to help. Eventually, after many phone calls and lengthy discussions a small group of experts came from Marmaris Dolphin Therapy: the CEO and owner Axel Linke, together with Elena Gerasimova, their Russian trainer and Linke’s son, Burkhardt. They agreed that it was essential to move the whale into open water as quickly as possible but the danger of injuring the animal while doing so should be avoided at all cost and this meant careful planning.

Later that night there was a bid for freedom by the whale but once again she returned to the shipyard, thankfully to a cleaner and less hazardous area. The experts believe the geography of the area, with its many coves and bays, resulted in confusing the whale; for although it was pointing out to sea there was a large mountain between it and freedom. Of course, there was the possibility that the animal was ill, but checks suggested that it was healthy and well nourished.

The following day, at about 2 p.m. the whale was guided into a protective cradle and lashed to the side of Tekin’s dive boat. The dive team stayed in the water while a fishing boat towed them to keep the noise levels down for the whale. When she was released to the water, she surfaced twice to breathe and headed off on her journey. There will be a careful watch to see if she returns.

Tekin must be acknowledged for the work she is doing in Fethiye and given the necessary authority to work unimpeded by the hierarchical system here. Secondly, there needs to be a rehabilitation center in Fethiye Ğ it’s equidistance between Marmaris and Antalya makes Fethiye an ideal location.