Rare orca autopsy suggests whale died after losing calf

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A RARE autopsy carried out on a killer whale washed up on a Scottish beach has revealed a tragic story known all too well known to humans.

Experts believe the orca lost her calf during birth and then likely died as a result of complications from pregnancy.

The post mortem examination revealed that the previously healthy whale had suffered a prolapsed uterus and had a severe infection which had affected her stomach, liver and intestines.

A team from the Scottish Marine Animal Strandings Scheme (SMASS) arrived on the island of Linga, Shetland, on Monday after the whale washed up last Thursday.

 

The team cut open the killer whale and removed parts for examination

 

The four-strong team took four hours to carry out their investigations and concluded that although she was alive when she washed up, she wouldn’t have survived if anyone had been there to help and was unfortunately in severe pain before she died.

The team now hope to learn more about the species from the samples they have taken back to their laboratory in Inverness.

Hillswick Wildlife Sanctuary in Shetland, uploaded gruesome video footage of the killer whale being dissected by the SMASS experts.

The sanctuary wrote: “This video is not for the faint hearted as it shows graphic images of a killer whale being cut up by experts carrying out a necropsy.”

The clip starts as the dead whale is towed off the beach and taken to a nearby landing for the experts to carry out their examination.

The camera films as the team open up the carcass to reveal its innards and start to saw and chop different sections away from the body.

 

 

At one point, the team can be seen unravelling the killer whale’s intestines which can grow to over 50m in length.

The footage ends with shots of different sections of the whale, including a part of its mouth with teeth and what appears to be its heart.

Andrew Brownlow, part of the SMASS team said: “We’ve been lucky enough to do quite a comprehensive post-mortem on a female killer whale, which is quite a rare species for strandings.

“They feed right at the top of the food chain and are a good representation of what’s going on in the marine environment.

“This one is an interesting story. She has a few things going on. One is that she’s prolapsed her uterus which we think has led to her stranding.

“There’s evidence she was alive before she came onto the beach. In addition to that, she has a really quite severe infection through her abdominal cavity.”

He continued: “We’ll now get some samples back to the lab and work out if it was because she was very poorly she lost her calf or was it the other way around?

“My gut feeling is that she was happy and healthy until very recently and whatever has done this has happened relatively quickly.

“She had been pregnant and for some reason, something went wrong with that and she lost the calf and got very sick.

“That’s the reasons that she then ended up on a beach and an animal that size, it’s very difficult for her to recover from that.

“Nobody wants to see an animal like this wash up dead but we’re probably going to be able to find out a lot more on this species.”

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