A beached orca on the examination table
The orca that ran aground and died near Cadzand on 15 October ended up on the autopsy table at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine. Initial results of the examination – conducted by Utrecht University in collaboration with Wageningen Marine Research – revealed a case of severe gum disease. The animal was also suffering from multiple inflammations to its internal organs and had not eaten for a long time. As biologist Lonneke IJsseldijk of Utrecht University explains, the orca was emaciated: 'All the orca's teeth were loose and had started rotting. It must have been in a lot of pain, especially when it was eating.'
A familiar orca in Spanish waters
Proyecto O.R.CA - Cádiz, a Spanish animal welfare organisation dedicated to the conservation of endangered orcas, recognised the orca from video footage. The whale had never been sighted this far north until she was spotted off the Dutch coast last October. She may have strayed from her normal environment due to illness.
Samples of organs
Further examinations are needed to determine the causes of inflammations in its various internal organs. The researchers gather samples of organs and take blood samples. These samples are then examined under a microscope in various laboratories.
As IJsseldijk explains, the examination also revealed muscle damage. “Marine mammals are fully adapted to life underwater. Their bodies come under a lot of pressure from gravity when they run aground. That has all kinds of effects on their circulation, breathing and overall chances of survival. Unfortunately, the orca died as a result when it ran aground.”