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Dead killer whale found close to The Wash

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A killer whale has been found washed up from The Wash, London Zoo has reported.

The orca was found on land close to the Lincolnshire/Norfolk border.

It is a juvenile male killer whale, approximately 4.5 metres long, that stranded in The Wash. This was the first the Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme at the Zoological Society of London team had attended in England and Wales since 2001.

The orca prior to investigation. (26809592)
The orca prior to investigation. (26809592)

Orcas are a priority species for ZSL research; as apex predators they absorb significant concentrations of marine pollutants including PCBs.

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 follow up bacteriology and histopathology, in addition to a range of samples that will inform pollutant analyses, as well as dietary studies, life history, age and population genetic analysis.

Rob Deaville and Matt Perekins store samples for analysis for the ZSL. (26809531)
Rob Deaville and Matt Perekins store samples for analysis for the ZSL. (26809531)

There was no evidence of recent feeding – the stomachs were largely empty – but the team found a large fragment of plastic in the cardiac stomach (the first stomach in cetaceans).

The plastic didn’t kill the animal but obviously it was not good to find it there. As this is such a rare case, subsequent analysis will inform UK marine mammal research for years to come.

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