First stranded orca in nearly 20 years discovered on England's east coast

14 January 2020, 22:09 | Updated: 14 January 2020, 23:05

The first stranded orca whale in England and Wales for nearly two decades has been discovered.

The 15ft-long juvenile male died after becoming stranded in the salt marshes of The Wash, the bay and estuary where Norfolk and Lincolnshire meet.

Experts are investigating the incident - the first confirmed stranding the Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme has had in England and Wales since 2001.

Orcas are a priority species for research by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), which is a partner of the programme, as they are top predators that can absorb significant concentrations of marine pollutants such as chemicals known as PCBs which accumulate as they go up the food chain.

Blubber, liver, muscle and kidney samples were collected from the whale by ZSL's Rob Deauville and Matt Perkins.

Most of the marine mammal's internal organs were intact despite having died a week ago, meaning its skin has started decomposing.

The investigators will analyse samples for marine contaminants and use genetic analysis to determine which population the whale came from.

Its teeth have also been collected to accurately assess his age.

Experts said there was no evidence of recent feeding as its stomachs were largely empty.

The team found a large fragment of plastic in the first stomach but it had not killed the orca as the stomach was not blocked.