Fears of more strandings

Saturday September 28, 2019 Written by Published in Environment
Grace Newman-Holt helped whale researcher Nan Hauser collect samples. 19092759 Grace Newman-Holt helped whale researcher Nan Hauser collect samples. 19092759

A second beaked whale was found on Muri’s reef yesterday, raising concern of the potential for many more strandings.

Yesterday’s whale – different from the 40-year-old Cuvier’s beaked whale rescued from the lagoon earlier this week, was found dead on the reef by a fisherman.

Whale researcher Nan Hauser warned this could be a part of a mass stranding. She wasn’t sure why it had happened but feared it could be related to climate change or military exercises.

John Jessie had gone fishing for crayfish and spotted the whale sitting on the reef. “It’s sad,” he said.

This beaked whale was larger than the one on Sunday: yesterday’s was 5-metres-long and was thought to have been dead a few days.

Late afternoon yesterday, when the tide was low, Nan Hauser, Marisa Newman and her daughter Grace Newman-Holt stumbled out towards Muri’s reef.

Marisa wasn’t sure where the whale was but straight out from the Muri motus, it lay washed up on the reef.

Grace, an 11-year-old with an interest in science, collected samples of the whale’s dry skin and wet skin and put it in her empty lunch box in the hope Nan could use it for her research.

Grace was thankful that this wasn’t the same whale she had previously helped to saved. “Every single stranding is so sad but people come out here to help and that’s really cool,” said Grace.

Nan and Marisa began struggling to cut the whale’s front teeth out, so they can be analysed to see how old the whale was.

It had marks along its body from sharks, it was bloated and even had a hole in its fin.

Nan has been helping stranded whales for 30 years, as part of her research. Marisa and Grace have been helping Nan.

The Cuvier’s beaked whale in Muri lagoon earlier this week was the first time she had a successful rescue with a whale of this kind.

That whale, thought to be 45 to 50 years old, had washed over the reef up by Koromiri Motu and had swum until it was too shallow.

This whale was lucky to make it over the reef – but this second one wasn’t so lucky.

Nan said when whales strand, they went into stress mode and often died from kidney failure and other organ malfunction.

Unable to bury this whale, Nan hopes that the waves will take it back over the reef and now she remains on high alert.

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