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Pilot whale found dead off Big Island may have died from infectious disease, NOAA says


By Matthew Nuttle

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    HILO, Hawaii (KITV) — Scientists say a whale that was found dead in waters off a Big Island beach on Tuesday may have died from an infectious disease.

The 17-foot short-finned pilot whale was found floating off Honokohau Harbor, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Based on its dorsal fin, the whale was identified as a member of the main Hawaiian Island resident whale population. This specific whale was first identified in 2004, according to NOAA.

Researches with the University of Hawaii’s Marine Biology institute conducted a necropsy on June 14. The researchers’ initial findings determined the whale had abnormally enlarged and inflamed lymph nodes, indicative of infectious disease. Further screening is underway to determine the exact cause of death.

The whale, which weighed approximately 3,000 pounds, was taken to a location along the shoreline where the examination was conducted in private. NOAA says cultural practitioners were allowed to engage in cultural practice during transportation, examination, and the burial. Practitioners were also allowed to take some of the remains offshore to be placed in the ocean.

After the examination, the whale was buried to prevent the possibility of any remains washing ashore in a public area or attracting sharks.

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