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Rare whale species found on beach


The whale was found at Kenneggy Beach near Praa Sands.

The whale was found at Kenneggy Beach near Praa Sands.

The whale was found at Kenneggy Beach near Praa Sands.

A rare beaked whale has been found on a Cornish beach - only the second time the species has been recorded in the UK.

The Blainville's whale, usually found in temperate and tropical waters, was discovered stranded on Kenneggy Beach, near Praa Sands.

Records from 1913 show the only other Blainville's beaked whale to reach UK shores was at Aberaeron in West Wales in 1993.

However, experts believe Blainville's will start stranding more frequently in Britain as water temperatures increase due to climate change.

A member of the public reported the stranding to the Cornwall Wildlife Trust Marine Strandings Network as a porpoise on December 30 2013.

But when the Network's data officer, Niki Clear, received photographs of the animal, measuring 3.8m (12ft 5in) long, she recognised it as an elusive Blainville.

Cetacean experts Colin MacLeod at Aberdeen University and Richard C. Sabin from The Natural History Museum later confirmed its identity.

Abby Crosby, Marine Conservation Officer for Cornwall Wildlife Trust, said: " We're very pleased that people took the trouble to report this animal to us, as by recording the carcasses of these creatures marine biologists can gather information about the species to help towards their conservation.

"This carcass was in a poor condition with advanced decomposition, so we would suggest that the public do not touch any dead marine animals they find, as they can carry diseases that humans can catch.

"It was a sad end for this amazing whale. However by examining these strandings it at least gives us a chance to investigate these animals properly and learn more about them. And the more we know, the better we're able to fight for their protection."

Examinations found the whale was a sub-adult or maturing male Blainville's beaked whale. Blainville's, like most beaked whales, are mostly found off-shore in waters 200m (656ft) to 1,000m (3,280ft) along continental shelves.

The species have a distinctive high arched lower jaw, with males showing a more pronounced arch and tusk-like tooth at the crest of each arch.

The carcass found on the Cornish beach was 3.8m (12ft 5in) in length - adult Blainville's reach up to 6m (19ft 8in) in length, with larger females giving birth to calves around 2m (6ft 6in) long and 60kg (132lb) in weight.

They are dark brown to grey in colour, with many tooth rake marks and circular scars along the body caused by cookie cutter shark and parasites, which are accumulated with age.

Syd Trudgen, a volunteer for Marine Stranding Network, was called to the beach after the stranding was reported.

"It is very rewarding to be a part of an organisation that looks after and speaks up for dolphins, seals, whales and turtles," Mr Trudgen said.

"They are all magnificent creatures and great credit is due to organisations such as the Trust which look after their environment and lobbies on their behalf. I am particularly pleased on this occasion as getting to the whale on Kenneggy Sands was very difficult due to the poor access and the difficult climb over the rocks (not so easy with a dodgy knee)."

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