Spe­cial­ists iden­tify whale found dead on Tiree

The Oban Times - - Community News -

A KILLER whale found dead on a Tiree beach died af­ter it be­came en­tan­gled in fish­ing gear, a post mortem ex­aina­tion has re­vealed.

This is the first time a killer whale is known to have died this way in Scot­land.

The whale has been iden­ti­fied as Lulu, one of only nine or­cas left in Scot­tish wa­ters, and one of only four fe­males in the group.

The iden­tity of the an­i­mal was con­firmed this week by Dr Andy Foote, an orca spe­cial­ist and Dr Conor Ryan of He­bridean Whale and Dol­phin Trust (HWDT).

Us­ing pho­tos from the trust’s cat­a­logue the pair were able to iden­tify Lulu from the dis­tinc­tive eye and sad­dle patches, which are unique to each in­di­vid­ual killer whale. Pho­tos taken of the stranded orca by John Bowler, RSPB Scot­land’s Tiree Of­fi­cer were cru­cial to al­low HWDT to iden­tify the an­i­mal. The whale’s body was found at Cross­apol Point, a rocky area be­tween Cross­apol and Soroby beaches.

This small and well­known group is Bri­tain and Ire­land’s only known res­i­dent pop­u­la­tion of killer whales and is feared to be at risk of ex­tinc­tion.

Dr Conor Ryan, the trust’s sight­ing and strand­ing of­fi­cer said: ‘It is par­tic­u­larly sad to know an­other of th­ese killer whales, unique to the Bri­tish and Ir­ish Isles, has died.

‘There may be as few as eight in­di­vid­u­als re­main­ing in this pop­u­la­tion, which has not pro­duced calves since stud­ies be­gan.’

The trust has been study­ing orca in the He­brides us­ing photo ID since 1992.

Lulu was last pho­tographed by the char­ity from its spe­cialised re­search yacht, Sil­urian, off Water­nish, Isle of Skye in July 2014.

The HWDT is work­ing to se­cure the fu­ture of western Scot­land’s cetaceans and the He­brides’ glob­ally im­por­tant marine en­vi­ron­ment through education, re­search and en­gage­ment with lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties.

For de­tails call 01688 302620 or visit www.hwdt.org.

IDEN­TI­FIED: Killer whale Lulu was found dead on

Tiree.

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