Dead killer whale washed up near Gedney Drove End
The first confirmed killer whale to strand in England and Wales in 19 years has been discovered in The Wash salt marshes near Gedney Drove End.
The Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme (CSIP) at the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) is investigating the case of the juvenile orca, which had empty stomachs and had swallowed a large piece of plastic.
The young male, approximately 15 feet long, is the first the CSIP team have attended in England and Wales since 2001. It may have washed up from quite a distance away.
Orcas are a priority species for ZSL research; as apex predators they absorb significant concentrations of chemical pollutants.
Despite the apparent decomposed condition – it is likely the animal died weeks ago – the internal organs were mostly intact.
ZSL’s Rob Deaville and Matt Perkins collected a range of samples for study, in addition to a range of samples that will inform pollutant analyses, as well as dietary studies, life history, age and population genetic analysis.
There was no evidence of recent feeding – the stomachs were largely empty – but the team found a large fragment of plastic in the first stomach although they say the plastic didn’t kill the animal.
A spokesman said: "As this is such a rare case, subsequent analysis will inform UK marine mammal research for years to come."
- The UK Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme (CSIP) was established in 1990 to coordinate the investigation of all whales, dolphins and porpoises that strand around the UK coastline, in addition to any stranded marine turtles and basking sharks. Data collected by the CSIP feed into reporting and assessment of status, which influences policy decisions and conservation efforts.
- The Zoological Society of London was founded in 1826 and is an international scientific, conservation and educational charity whose mission is to promote and achieve the worldwide conservation of animals and their habitats.
More by this authorJeremy Ransome