[MARMAM] Necropsies on the stranded Ziphius in the Ionian Sea, Greece

Alexandros Frantzis afrantzis at otenet.gr
Mon Dec 5 18:35:39 PST 2011

Dear all,

Thanks a lot(!) to all those who have responded to our first message and 
provided, precious information or good will to help in any way they 
could. We have been overwhelmed by the obligations of the last days, so 
I apologize that I will not be able to answer personally to all of you 
who sent e-mails (more than 100!).

Many thanks to Dr. Giuseppe Notarbartolo di Sciara who responded 
immediately and initiated a large international effort for the 
conservation of the Mediterranean deep diving cetacean that are 
sensitive to loud anthropogenic sounds. Also many thanks to all those 
who expressed support to this initiative.

The good news: this message is to let you know that despite the many and 
various difficulties, at the end necropsies were performed in two of the 
stranded whales (probably three or possibly four in total in Corfu). 
Thanks to Prof. Antonio Fernandez ( Facultad de Veterinaria - 
Universidad de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria), who kindly and immediately 
responded to our call and expressed his will to help, a team of 
specialists led in situ by Dr. Manuel Arbelo succeeded to join us and 
reach the stranding area early enough to make the necropsies possible.

One of the two whales was nearly fresh and allowed important macroscopic 
observations. More details and further results from sample analysis will 
be announced by Prof. Antonio Fernandez and his team whenever appropriate.

Best wishes and thank you once more,


Dr. Alexandros Frantzis
Scientific director
Pelagos Cetacean Research Institute
Terpsichoris 21
16671 Vouliagmeni,
Tel.: +30-210-8960108
e-mail: afrantzis at otenet.gr
website: http://www.pelagosinstitute.gr

On 12/1/2011 2:04 AM, Alexandros Frantzis wrote:
> Dear all,
> Once more we have bad news regarding Cuvier's beaked whales in the 
> Ionian Sea. The local population unit, which has repeatedly been 
> affected by NATO naval activity (last time in February 2011 east of 
> Sicily) may be steadily heading towards its extinction...
> Today 30 November 2011 at least three Cuvier's beaked whales stranded 
> alive and atypically in west Corfu, along 23 km of coast. All whales 
> were led offshore by people who tried to rescue them. One whale died 
> some 200 m offshore. Another whale, after having swam some 600 m 
> offshore, returned and stranded once more (if this wasn't a different 
> animal). It was led once more offshore after the sunset, so no further 
> information is available so far. The third animal was not seen after 
> it was "rescued".
> *I would like to draw your attention on two "peculiarities":*
> *1)* Independent rescuers in two different stranding areas, reported 
> that they were hearing "whistles" while approaching the single 
> animals. The "whistles" were heard even out of the water at a distance 
> of 100 m from the animal (!), and became much louder when the rescuers 
> entered the water to approach the animal. The rescuers kept hearing 
> the "whistles" until they left the place, two hours after the death of 
> the unique whale present! They thought that there might be other 
> whales calling the stranded animal from further offshore, although 
> they could observe nothing for hours.
> Two independent rescuers (separated by 23 km) described these 
> "whistles" as "emission"-pause of 10-15 seconds-"emission"-pause and 
> so on. *I wonder if what the rescuers were hearing was the probable 
> sonic cause of the stranding*. If you have a similar experience or 
> knowledge, please share it with us.
> The rescuers didn't see any military or seismic survey vessels from 
> the shore. A fisherman from the area said that today he saw an 
> "unusual" research vessel offshore that he believes (it is known in 
> the area that seismic surveys have started or are about to start) was 
> performing research for oil.
> *2)* The whale that died 200 m offshore was found at about 3-4 m depth 
> at an unusual position (to me at least). Its flukes were on the sea 
> bed while the beak and part of the head of the animal was out of the 
> water! For some reason the head could float at surface and the animal 
> never sunk. *Does anyone has an explanation?
> *
> Unfortunately no necropsy was performed to the animal that died.
> The port-police authorities and local volunteers have been alerted and 
> we just hope that tomorrow we won't find more animals along the coasts.
> Repeated use of military sonar and now growing seismic survey activity 
> go on in an area that is critical for the two deep diving 
> Mediterranean species, the Cuvier's and the sperm whales. In 2007 
> ACCOBAMS officially proposed the creation of a MPA for deep diving 
> cetaceans in the eastern Ionian Sea (Hellenic Trench), but nothing has 
> happened so far.
> Best wishes,
> Alexandros
> -- 
> ___________________________________________
> Dr. Alexandros Frantzis
> Scientific director
> Pelagos Cetacean Research Institute
> Terpsichoris 21
> 16671 Vouliagmeni,
> Tel.: +30-210-8960108
> e-mail:afrantzis at otenet.gr
> website:http://www.pelagosinstitute.gr
> ___________________________________________

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