The first orca in almost two decades has been found on England’s coastline after washing ashore according to the Zoological Society of London (ZSL).
The 15 foot killer whale was found decomposed in salt marsh on the eastern coast of the England.
The team from CSIP was the first to examine the orca and discovered the animal had “large fragment of plastic material” inside the orca’s body. The examiners did say that that the plastic is unlikely the direct cause of death.
The team from ZSL collected blubber, liver, muscle, and kidney samples from the marine mammal, which was intact despite the body being severely decomposed.
Orcas are a priority species for researchers as they are apex predators and absorb significant concentrations of marine pollutants, which accumulate as they move up the food chain.
CSIP said: “Killer whales are a priority species for the project given the conservation pressure that they’re under — as apex predators, they’re unfortunately exposed to high levels of legacy chemical pollutants.”
The tests from the samples collected will be analyzed to determined the amount of pollutants in the orcas body, while genetic analysis will help determine which population the orca is from.
Populations of orcas in the past have been much greater but total numbers have plummeted significantly in recent years. Researchers from ZSL found that the waters surrounding the United Kingdom are among the most polluted in the world and that killer whales will struggle to survive in these conditions.