Waiting for Putol

So, I tried to make that a play on “Waiting for Godot”…not sure if that came through.
Searching for Putol

Anyway. What is Putol? Putol is (or…was) one of the Irrawaddy dolphins here in Malampaya Sound.  His name stems from his tail-lessness; the flukes were missing, cut off somehow.  “Putol” is the Tagalog word for “cut”.  And so he was christened.

Last month, my field assistants heard some sad news from their interviewees while I was busy in Puerto Princesa. Putol had been seen, dead, floating near one of the villages. There was a search for the body (which could have given clues as to how he died, his general health, and his diet, and samples for all sorts of fun tests), but he wasn’t found again.

Last Friday, we were wrapping up my last day of fieldwork here for this phase (I’ll be returning in December). We’d had a fantastic 7 hours of dolphin survey, and finished the track lines with enough time to go get some interviews done.

While I was sitting in on Zion’s interview, Cristela walked into the fisher’s house and excitedly mouthed, “My interviewee saw Putol!”  He’d apparently seen a dead, decomposed dolphin with no tail washed up on a nearby beach, sometime in September.  He also saw the exposed skeleton a little while later.

With a month full of strong typhoon weather (not to mention the normal tides) since his sighting, there was little chance that anything remained.  But, I was also excited.  When everyone had finished their interviews, we went exploring.

And it was in vain.  Tela did find a white comb and temporarily fooled me into thinking it was a bone (in fairness, I was about 15 meters away).

But…it was a lovely late afternoon walk.

It’s really a shame that we didn’t know about the stranding earlier.  One of my little side-projects here is to make little “business” cards to distribute in the barangay, asking people to notify their barangay officials and/or text Ricky and Ely with any information on bycatch and strandings.  This gives me extra motivation to get that done when I come back in December.

RIP, Putol.