NOAA to perform necropsy on whale to find cause of death - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

NOAA to perform necropsy on whale to find cause of death

David Schofield David Schofield

By Mari-Ela David - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Researchers say it's a sad, mysterious death, and there are questions over a beached whale that died suddenly on Maui yesterday.

On Tuesday evening, the carcass was transported to Oahu.

The whale carcass was taken to a lab. Researchers want to study it and find out why it died so young.

"I was sad and shocked that they couldn't bring it back to life," said Pu'ili Cockett.

13-year-old Cockett snapped pictures of the bleeding whale that died at Hamoa beach.

"It had like a few cuts and there were like crabs crawling all around it," said Cockett.

"It's got a lot of what we call Cookie Cutter shark scars all over its body. And the number that we see suggests that the whale was at the surface for a long period of time and getting attacked by all these little sharks, probably because of some disease process or illness," said David Schofield, Response Coordinator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Schofield says the 12-foot long, 1400 pound female, is a beaked whale - a rare species.

"This is also a youngster that looks healthy from the outside, probably a whale that's only two to three years old, good body condition but again it thrashed and tore about the beach and died suddenly yesterday," said Schofield.

Aloha Air Cargo transported the carcass to the Honolulu International Airport, which is an unusual delivery.

"I asked around and nobody could remember anything in recent history but we have moved quite a few other animals like monkeys limas and even a water buffalo from Tropic Thunder, the movie," said Jeff Bell of Aloha Air Cargo.

The carcass is now at a lab at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

That's where NOAA will conduct a necropsy, or an animal autopsy.

The last time NOAA conducted a necropsy on a beaked whale was in 2008.

It was stranded off Molokai.

And after struggling for eight hours in the water, a vet decided to euthanize the mammal. The U.S. Coast Guard transported the 2500 pound carcass to Oahu so researchers could learn more about its death.

NOAA said sonar used in the Navy's RIMPAC exercises may have been to blame, but there was no evidence to support that.

Like the whale on Maui, it too died young.

NOAA says the whale was blessed on Maui, which the agency says is standard procedure before performing a necropsy.

There are several dozen types of beaked whales, but all are rarely observed.

The reason is, not only do they tend to shy away from people and boats, they dive to depths of more than 6,000 feet and don't have to surface often.

The beaked whale travels in small pods of two to seven or completely alone.

They tend to feed mostly on deep sea squid.



Copyright 2010 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.

Powered by Frankly