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Stranded sperm whale dies

A whale washed up on a beach in Norfolk has died, rescuers said.

British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) said the creature died shortly after 8pm on Thursday. It had been stranded at Hunstanton since that morning.

Stephen Marsh, operations manager at the BDMLR, said: "We're very sad to confirm that the whale has died but it is a bit of a relief because it had been in quite a lot of suffering."

Teams spent much of the day at the beach but said their main focus was making the whale comfortable as it had little chance of survival.

High tide arrived at 2.50pm, engulfing the whale but it was unable to move.

Even if it had returned to the sea, it was likely to become stranded again and would almost certainly die because of internal injuries suffered since coming ashore, the BDMLR added.

It comes after three dead whales washed up on the Lincolnshire coast and one was found at Hunstanton last month. It is the 29th stranding across Europe in the last two weeks.

Mr Marsh said earlier : "This is not a rescue operation, it is just about making the whale as comfortable as possible.

"There's nothing we can do, it's likely to be between 25 and 30 tonnes. We can't lift it, we can't roll it, the vets can't put it out of its misery.

"The body will be breaking down and releasing toxins, causing organ failure. It's a very sad case but we will have to let nature take its course."

Mr Marsh said strandings can happen naturally and the recent increase might be due to a rise in whale populations.

"It will get more attention because it's a big animal but strandings do happen naturally, and we are just not used to seeing them as we decimated the population through whaling," he said.

"The females and calves stay in warmer waters and the males leave as they become sexually active and form bachelor pods. They will then go back to the warmer areas on an annual basis to mate.

"We don't know if they were trying to migrate down to the tropics, but there's no sign yet of any man-made activity that would cause them to come in, but that is being investigated."

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