Animal rights advocates are outraged after discovering that someone sawed teeth off of a beached orca whale in B.C.'s Comox Valley.

The dead whale, known by researchers as “Rhapsody,” underwent an autopsy Saturday. The 18-year-old endangered orca was pregnant when it died. 

Marcie Callewaert, of the Victoria Marine Science Association, called the stolen teeth a “crime.”

“Someone last night, selfishly, cruelly, illegally cut off several teeth from her. It’s a crime that can’t be described. It’s a crime against science. It’s a crime against her and the respect to Rhapsody,” Callewaert told CTV Vancouver Island. 

On Saturday, bystander Jean Rowe was one of the first to discover that four teeth had been removed from the whale with a saw. 

“So disrespectful. Like no respect for the whale, no respect for the species, no respect for (The Department of Fisheries and Oceans) and the biologists and pathologists trying to do their job,” she said. 

Paul Cottrell, the Pacific Marine Mammal co-ordinator with the department, said the crime is sickening. The department is now investigating the case, and it could take several weeks to determine who removed the whale’s teeth. 

The orca, tracked by the number J32, was from the endangered “Southern residents” pod. Researchers believe she may have been giving birth at the time of her death. Cottrell said it appears Rhapsody had a near full-term fetus when she died. 

Top marine biologists from throughout the Pacific northwest have begun the difficult but necessary task of examining the deceased whale, including collecting measurements and samples from its body. The fetus, placenta and uterus will be taken back to Abbotsford, B.C. for analysis. 

For researchers who have followed Rhapsody, it’s difficult to watch the whale being dissected.

“To see the process of (her) being taken apart, it really breaks your heart. But what she’s given to us through her death is invaluable. It’s data that we can’t replace without her death,” said Callewaert. 

With a report from CTV Vancouver Island’s Gord Kurbis