The endangered resident orca population in Scotland has been dealt a huge blow, after a female ‘Lulu’ was found washed up dead on a beach in the Western Isles. Lulu is a member of the only resident orca population found off the UK and Ireland. This population is believed to be at risk of extinction and are not believed to have had offspring for over two decades. Research into the orcas in Scotland has shown that this resident population has no association with other orca pods found further north and that the western population is morphologically different which suggests they came from different ancestors.
Tragically a necropsy by the Scottish Marine Animal Strandings Scheme gives convincing evidence that the orca died as a result of entanglement. They state that deep, granulating wounds around the tailstock and tell-tale twin linear abrasions on the underside of the tail fluke are consistent with a rope entanglement around the tail and trailing behind the animal, probably still attached to something at the other end. This entanglement would have made swimming very difficult and ultimately would have caused the orca to drown. As no ropes or fishing gear was found on the orca it cannot be concluded whether entanglement was due to fishing gear, abandoned or ‘ghost’ gear, or other marine debris.
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