Killer whale found dead on The Wash salt marshes with just PLASTIC in its empty stomach is first to become stranded in Britain in almost 20 years
- WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT
- The 15ft long killer whale was found in a salt marsh in The Wash near Holbeach
- Experts from ZSL are now analysing the specimen which died ‘weeks ago’
- Cause of death is unknown but was found to have plastic in its stomach
- The animal is not thought to have eaten recently as it had an empty stomach
An dead orca has been found in a salt marsh in The Wash, the first stranding of a killer whale on English shores since 2001.
The juvenile male killer whale is approximately 15ft long and is thought to have died several weeks ago near the Lincolnshire town of Holbeach, experts claim.
Early analysis of the rare specimen reveal it had a large chunk of plastic in its stomach when it died, but this did not cause its demise.
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The juvenile male killer whale (pictured) was approximately 15ft long and is thought to have died several weeks ago near the Lincolnshire town of Holbeach, experts claim
ZSL´s Rob Deaville and Matt Perkins store samples for analysis in the lab. Early analysis off the rare specimen reveal it had a chunk of plastic in its stomach when it died, but this did not cause its demise
Its cause of death and the reason for it being inland remain unknown, but orcas are known to swim in British waters.
Experts at the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) are investigating the stranding in further detail as it is so uncommon, the first in nearly 20 years.
ZSL’s Rob Deaville and Matt Perkins collected samples of blubber, liver, muscle and kidney samples to learn more about the animal’s life and death.
ZSL’s Rob Deaville told MailOnline: ‘This is a really unusual stranding for England and Wales. The last one I went to was in 2001 in the Mersey Estuary.
The carcass has not been moved and was mostly intact internally despite its decomposed state.
It is known the animal was young due to its size, but its exact age is unknown.
Ongoing research is assessing the apex predator’s teeth to try and determine how old it was at its time of death.
Analysis of the animal’s stomach revealed it had not eaten recently as its stomach contents were largely empty.
Orcas are a priority species for research by ZSL as they absorb significant concentrations of marine pollutants such as chemicals known as PCBs.
‘Killer whales are a priority species for us as, because they are apex predators, they absorb a huge amount of marine pollutants particularly PCBs,’ Mr Deaville says.
‘Even in this decomposed condition it will potentially tell us an awful lot about the population out there.
‘We 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.’
Genetic analysis will help determine which population the animal came from in a bid to track its final days.
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