[MARMAM] Second autopsy and update for the mass stranding of Cuvier’s beaked whales in SE Crete, Greece.‏

ARION arion at arion.org.gr
Tue Apr 8 22:28:21 PDT 2014

(sorry for cross-posting)

Dear colleagues,

There is a tragedy with the mass strandings of Cuvier's beaked whales 
which occur in SE Crete, since the 1st of April.The female Cuvier's 
beaked whale (Ziphius cavirostris sp.) which was stranded dead on 
3/4/2014 at Kastri, Heraklion Crete, Greece, was also pregnant! While 
necropsy started by the district veterinarian and under Dr. Anastasia’s 
Komnenou guidance, a fetus of a female Cuvier's beaked whale, of ~1,20 m 
in length, was revealed in front the socking eyes of the Veterinarian. 
It was a tragic moment. Therefore, there was not one but two deaths 
which are recorded for this incident. (please see the pictures at 

During the last week, there is a lot of harm towards the Cuvier's beaked 
whales in Southern Crete with already four dead animals. In Greece, 
Ziphius cavirostris’ population, behaviour, feeding areas, reproduction 
and lifespan  are not completely studied.  This is a parameter that we 
stress the authorities for their immediate protection and conservation 
for these animals, Dr Aimilia Drougas, ARION’s scientific coordinator, 
commended. The mother was still in gestation and did not make delivering 
her baby. This is a serious collateral loss and relevant authorities 
should implement immediate protection measures for the Cuvier’s beaked 
whales’ population.

 From relevant literature, Cuvier's Beaked Whale calves are usually, born 
at about 2.70 m in length (Heyning 2002; Mead 1984) and their physical 
maturity is reached at between 5.9 m and 6.13 m (Ross 2006). Also, their 
mating and calving season is reported to be all year round, as no 
seasonal pattern is evident. Dr. Aimilia Drougas said that the calving 
areas are not known for Greek waters as well as, the gestation period 
and calving interval for Cuvier's Beaked Whales are unknown, but in 
other beaked whales species the interval is expected to be one calf 
every few years, leading to a slow reproductive capacity.

ARION will evaluate all the findings after receiving the results from 
the histopathological and other analysis of the tissue and internal 
organ samples, which have been gathered from the 3 necropsies. The 
analysis is accomplished at the Veterinary Medicine of AUTH 
laboratories. For further details, on the laboratory results please 
contact Dr. Anastasia Komnenou at natakomn at vet.auth.gr,

The tri-lateral war drill exercises of Greece, Israel and NATO’s navy 
using sonars are expected to finish on the 10th of April, according to 
the Hellenic Navy’s formal announcement. Although, the covered area has 
been moved 100 km southern of Crete, after the alert given by the focal 
point of ACCOBAMS in Greeece, atypical strandings are still reported in 
this area. It is known that Ziphiidae ear drums are affected from the 
low frequency sonars by air empolism.

Given the seriousness of the situation and because have historically 
been other similar mass strandings of Cuvier’s beaked whales on coasts 
of western and southern Greece, the incident is being monitored by the 
Faculty of Veterinary Medicine of Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, 
the Hellenic Marine Research Centre, the Institute of Cetacean Research 
Pelagos and the Cetacean Rescue and Rehabilitation Research Center - 

Local authorities and local residents and ARION’s volunteers of Southern 
Crete, have been alerted to stand by and immediately notify the port 
authorities and the above organizations, in case other marine mammals 
strand on the coast of the broader region.

For your information, we attach two pictures taken from the stranded 
dead mother and her fetus Cuvier's beaked whales who stranded dead at 
Kastri, Heraklion, SE Crete on 3/4/2014. You may find additional 
pictures at our social network, for the stranded animals.

Best wishes,
Aimilia Drougas and Natasa Komnenou
Dr. Aimilia Drougas, Biologist, Geologist Oceanographer
Scientific Coordinator
ARION-Cetacean Rescue and Rehabilitation Research Center
Limenas, Nea Moudania
63200  Chalkidiki, GREECE
Tel.: +30-6945-644994, +30-213-0067257-8
e-mail:  arion at arion.org.gr
website: http://www.arion.org.gr
F/B: http://www.facebook.com/ARION.org

Dr. Anastasia Komnenou, DVM, PhD
Anastasia Komnenou, DVM, PhD,
Associate  Professor, Comparative  Ophthalmology- Exotic and Wildlife 
Medicine Unit,
Animal Hospital, School of Veterinary Medicine
Aristotle University of Thessaloniki,
St. Voutyra 11, 546-27
Thessaloniki, Greece
Tel.: +30-6945-531850, +30-2130-994443
e-mail: natakomn at vet.auth.gr
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