Saturday, 7 January 2012
Marine experts have discovered what killed a whale that died on a Kent beach.
The minke whale was washed up at Epple Bay, Westgate. Though this was the fifth time in 22 years a member of the species has died in the county, it is a rare occurrence compared to the numbers that die in Scotland.
Following a post mortem, Jon Brooks, a marine mammal medic and East Kent co-ordinator of the British Divers Marine Life Rescue, said: “The cause of death has been put as combination of dehydration, starvation and parasitic infestation in intestines and all three stomachs.”
The whale was removed from the beach just before New Year’s Day and transported to a recycling centre where the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) sent its pathologists to carry out a post mortem, away from public eyes.
A spokesman said: “It is quite a gruesome procedure, so it’s best done in private when it can. Afterwards, the whale would be broken up and taken to a landfill site.”
The minke was just over eight metres long and is believed to be an adult.
The society spokesman said: “This is the 13th minke whale to strand in the UK since last year, with all the others being in Scotland so this incident is an uncommon stranding.
“The whale was in reasonable condition but hadn’t eaten for some time – there was no food in the gut, which also showed a heavy parasite burden.
“It’s possible the whale initially stranded while alive because it had lost some condition. There are some of these whales resident in the north sea so it may be one of that population.
“Samples have been taken for further analysis and full results are expected in two weeks.
“This will identify any underlying problems that could have caused the stranding.”
A 45ft sperm whale washed onto the beach at Pegwell Bay in March last year, and in April, 2006, a humpback whale arrived on the beach at Dover.