The body of a 26-foot (8m) long humpback whale has washed ashore outside a small seaside town in northern Germany, shocking scientists and a crowd of curious onlookers.
A sailor spotted the unusual body floating in the water on Saturday outside Graal-Müritz, a picturesque town along the Baltic coast that is popular with tourists, and sounded the alert, according to Northern German Radio (NDR).
A team of rescue workers were then forced to use tractors and fire engines to drag the body of the whale, which is believed to be a young female, to the beach, which is in the state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, and load it onto a truck to be towed away for a post mortem.
It is extremely rare for dead whales to wash up on German shores. Sometimes dead seals and porpoises can be spotted along the coastline, but a humpback whale is an "absolute exception," Timo Moritz, head of science at the German Maritime Museum, said yesterday.
AdvertisementAdvertise with NZME.
The roughly 10-month old calf may have been lost, Moritz said. Normally humpback whales live in the Atlantic, however sometimes lone whales swim to Rügen, a German island in the Baltic Sea, to find fish to eat, he explained.
After an initial assessment, scientists estimated that the young whale has been dead for over a week and that it was badly nourished, which may be why it failed to make it back out to sea. However, they will not know the cause of death until further research is carried out.
Adult humpback whales can grow to around 16m long and mainly live on a diet of krill and small fish. They were once hunted to the brink of extinction by whalers and, although the population has partially recovered, man-made fishing gear and collisions with ships can still be fatal for them.
Although unusual, it is not the first time a dead whale has washed ashore in Germany. In January 2016 13 dead sperm whales were found near the town of Toenning in Schleswig-Holstein, after dying from cardiovascular failure.
A shocking post mortem found their stomachs were full of plastic, including a 13m-long fisherman's net and a 71cm piece of plastic from a car. By the time they died, the whales, which were all male and between 10 and 15 years old, were severely underweight.
Plastic waste that makes its way into the oceans is often swallowed by hungry sea creatures.
Just this month a pilot whale was found dead in Thailand after eating more than eighty plastic bags and other debris. The whale was found in a canal in southern Thailand near the border with Malaysia. Eight kilograms of plastic waste was found in the its stomach.