Celebrity whale in Shenzhen feared dead two months after first appearance

A lone juvenile Bryde’s whale, which became an online sensation when it appeared in the Mirs Bay off the coast of Shenzhen, is feared to have died. The local government said on Monday a carcass of a Bryde’s whale was found and salvaged from the bay. 
The first appearance of a Bryde’s whale in the waters of Shenzhen in 16 years was celebrated on Chinese internet. The wide coverage in early July had a heavy cartoonish tone, with the whale, nicknamed “Xiaobu” (or “Little Bu”, after the first syllable of its species name), personified as a wandering gluttonous teenager finding a paradise of abundance in Shenzhen and reluctant to leave. Its dwelling in the bay was widely interpreted as an indication of harmonious coexistence between humans and animals in the waters of Shenzhen. But a whale expert said its appearance could also have to do with Covid paralysing the Yantian Port and stopping large ships from entering the bay.
It is unclear whether the dead whale was Xiaobu. In at least one picture circulated online the carcass appears to be wrapped in a net. The death coincided with the lifting of a local summer fishing ban on 16 August, leading to speculations on social media that the death was caused by fishing in the bay.
But the effort to protect Xiaobu hasn’t been passive. The local district government established a task force for Xiaobu’s protection on 2 July, the day of its discovery, advising boats and ships to skirt the area where Xiaobu emerges. The municipal government established a 64-square-kilometer “temporary control zone” in the bay for its protection in mid-August. There was even a drill carried out in mid-July for rescuing a giant whale from stranding.
In addition to this, by the end of July, half of the 12 melon-headed whales stranded in Zhejiang earlier that month died despite a massive rescue effort. Compounded by the Shenzhen incident, rescue of cetaceans is set to receive more attention within the country.