The killer whale that became stranded and later died on a Northern Tasmanian beach last weekend has been buried, as tests to determine the reasons behind the event continue.
An initial visual assessment of the animal suggested it may have died from crushing injuries associated with the stranding.
Wildlife rescuers and volunteers rushed to the aide of the large male orca on January 19 after a member of the public reported the animal to the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment.
The team worked all day and into the night to keep the orca wet while digging a channel to allow it access to deeper water at high tide, though the efforts eventually failed.
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Blood and tissue samples taken by marine biologists were yet to undergo laboratory analysis, according to a DPIPWE spokesperson.
“It is hoped that the results may indicate if there was an underlying health issue or cause for the stranding,” they said.
“A visual assessment of the whale indicated that the cause of death was consistent with crush injuries due to stranding on land when the animal’s immense body weight was no longer supported by water.”
The spokesperson added the orca had been “deep buried” to allow natural decomposition without a risk to public safety.
“The public are reminded that any collection of wildlife products is an offence under the Whales Protection Act 1988 and Nature Conservation Act 2002 and liable to attract significant penalties.”
The incident was the second rescue attempt for a killer whale stranded on a Tasmanian beach in the past 20 years, with a successful past rescue involved a much smaller whale which was found very soon after stranding, according to the spokesperson.
Three other reports of orca strandings have involved animals already dead when discovered.
Though strandings are rare, the animals are often sighted in Tasmanian waters. A pod was spotted about 50 metres from the Bell Bay Wharf in August 2017.
In November 2016, fisherman Jeremy Jackson observed them in the river between George Town and Low Head.
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