Mon, Oct 03, 2016 - Page 3 News List

Experts concerned whale deaths may be from disease

By Wang Chun-chi and William Hetherington  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

A seventh whale has washed up on the shores of Hualien County in under a month, prompting marine experts to conduct tests on the mammal’s remains to see if an infectious disease is spreading in the species.

A dwarf sperm whale was found early on Saturday morning on the shore of Yen Liao beach in Shoufeng Township (壽豐).

A majority of the dead whales have been sperm whales, leading experts to speculate that bacteria found in the latest corpse is indicative of an infectious disease.

Samples taken from the latest whale have been sent to a veterinary lab for tests.

Experts say the multitude of recent typhoons might have caused the animals to lose their direction and get pushed onto shore by massive waves.

However, they said it is rare for so many whales to beach in such a short period of time, and hope tests can help them find the exact cause of the incidents.

Farglory Ocean Park veterinarian Jen Yi-fan (任一凡), members of the Kuroshio Ocean Education Fund and the Taiwan Cetacean Society and staff from the county’s Bureau of Agriculture performed a dissection to take samples before returning the remains to the sea.

The 2m whale had been dead for three days when it was found and its body had already split in several places.

Kuroshio chief executive Chang Hui-chun (張卉君) said that given the high number of incidents over such a short time along with their concentration in one area of the coast and among two similar species — the pygmy sperm whale and the dwarf sperm whale — it would appear that the typhoons were not the sole cause of the deaths.

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