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NOAA Says Beached Pygmy Killer Whales Had Abnormal Lymph Nodes

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Scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said that the two adult male pygmy killer whales that stranded on Sugar Beach on September 24th had abnormal lymph nodes, which are commonly caused by infectious disease.

However scientists caution that these are preliminary findings from the necropsy conducted by the UH Stranding Lab, and that full lab results including disease screening, histopathology, genetics and a closer look at the whales’ ears will be available later.

“Some type of disease is currently considered the most likely cause of the stranding, but we need to consider all the lab test results before we can possibly say anything conclusive,” said Jeff Walters, Chief of NOAA’s Wildlife Management and Conservation Branch.

Walters said the whales likely were infected before they arrived in Maui waters but does not know when. An examination of the whales stomachs revealed reef fish, which is not the whales’ usual diet and they eat more deep sea wildlife.


What that shows Walter said, is that the whales were likely not feeling well and kept close to shore,  eating what they could find to sustain themselves.


NOAA continued to monitor the other four whales in the area and believe that they made it back to the open ocean.

“As the days passed, these whales began swimming more actively and traveling further distances around the bay,” Walters said. “The last confirmed sighting of these whales was on Saturday, September 26, 2019, and we are cautiously optimistic that they have left the bay and moved out to their normal deep water habitat.”

To report other whale strandings in the future NOAA urges the public to contact their hotline, (888) 256-8940.


“We want to thank the public and agency partners for their support during this stranding event,” Walters said.

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