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A Dead Whale Was Found In The Amazon Jungle And No One's Quite Sure How It Got There

It was found about 50 feet away from the ocean, so how did it get there?

Posted on February 25, 2019, at 5:15 p.m. ET

Of all the things you'd expect to find in the jungles of the Amazon, a rotting whale corpse probably isn't high on the list.

Bicho D'água / Via

The whale, a humpback, was found about 50 feet away from the shore on the Marajó island in Brazil, according to the Bicho D'água Institute. It was found due to all the birds scavenging the carcass.

The institute is a nonprofit that studies the wildlife on the island, which is bordered to the north where the Amazon River meets the Atlantic.

According to a Facebook post, the whale is about 26 feet long. The researchers who found it think it's a year old.

They also said it's "not as big" as it looks in the photos. Still, even young whales are pretty big.

Bicho D'água / Via Facebook: pg

It's likely the animal was already dead before it washed ashore and was pushed inland by the tide, eventually settling in the mangroves.

Although it all sounds very weird, Daniel M. Palacios, an endowed assistant professor in whale habitats at Oregon State University, said it's not totally unheard of.

"The Amazon is a mighty river, so not completely unexpected," he told BuzzFeed News. "This animal was found more in the estuary or the mouth of the Amazon."

What is definitely weird is the fact that a young whale was in this part of Brazil at this time of year.

Whales in the Atlantic are divided into two camps between the northern and southern hemispheres. What that means is they either spend the summers feeding in the north, around Greenland and Newfoundland, or in the south, around Antarctica.

During their respective winters, they travel to the Caribbean to breed. The Marajó island is very close to the equator, so it's not clear which population this whale came from, but either way it's not where it would normally be.

Bicho D'água / Via Facebook: pg

"Right now we’re in the Northern Hemisphere winter, and that’s what makes it more unusual," said Palacios.

There's also the question of the calf's age. If it's young, it could have been separated from its mother, perhaps during an orca attack. It then may have got lost and starved to death.

Older juvenile whales however, said Palacios, are known to explore outside the usual migratory pattern. So, perhaps this one was just roaming around before it's demise.

"I think the key to this whole situation is the age of the calf would need to be determined with more certainty," said Palacios.

Bicho D'água / Via Facebook: pg

Bicho D'água has collected samples from the carcass to determine the cause of death.

Palacios said they'll need to look at the whale's size, age, and body condition to determine exactly how it ended up in its final resting place.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.