Sea shells, rocks . . . You can find many things along the beach shore, but whale bones? That’s what washed up on the rocks of Playa Blanca back in August of 2009 and subsequently was brought to El Refugio de Potosi, the small, not-for-profit ecopark-animal refuge that is located in the small community of Barra de Potosí, Guerrero, Mexico, about 40 minutes from Zihuatanejo. El Refugio is custodian to the only sperm whale skeleton in Mexico.
Sperm whales are large; this one is about 60 feet long, and in life, our whale weighed approximately 120,000 pounds – one of the largest exhibits in the world! It is one big pile of bones! The decomposing carcass washed up on rocks, making it especially difficult to collect. Brave workers from El Refugio tied themselves to trees and fence posts and endured crashing waves to tote the very heavy and very smelly bones to their new home at El Refugio.
PROFEPA, the Mexican governmental protection agency for animals, granted permission to collect the bones. In Mexico, all whales are protected live or dead. Over a period of 6 weeks, employees and volunteers at El Refugio collected the bones, at times tying themselves to trees and fence posts. They used chain saws, machetes, ropes and brute force to free the bones from the carcass and the sea. They carried the bones over the rocks, through the mud (it was the rainy season) and toted them back to El Refugio.
Many bones are damaged or missing and need to be repaired or reconstructed. The bones are then strung on stainless steel pipes and cables, and finally the skeleton is hung so that the bones look like the whale they once were.
Become a Whale Bone Godfather or Godmother! There are numerous ways in which you can help with this project. Donors can choose the bone of their liking and become its “Padrino” or “Godfather,” by donating a designated amount. The bones ranged in price from $30,000 pesos to $250 pesos. All money raised will be used towards the treatment of the bones, repair of damaged bones and the creation of missing bones.
You can become a member of El Refugio for $500 pesos a year (just under $50 USD), you can volunteer, or you can sponsor your very own animal. For more information about their mission, exhibits and future plans, drop by or check out www.elrefugiodepotosi.org.