Killer whale corpse found on English beach for the first time in 20 years

This decaying orca corpse is the first killer whale to be stranded on a beach in England or Wales in nearly 20 years.

The 15ft juvenile male became trapped in salt marshes in The Wash off the east coast of England. It is now being studied by scientists.

Tests will look for contaminants while genetic analysis will help determine which population the animal came from. Its teeth have been collected to assess its age.

Orcas are found in all oceans and most seas, with large populations around Norway, the north Pacific, the Gulf of Alaska and the Southern Ocean off the coast of Antarctica.

It is the first confirmed orca stranding that the Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme, of which ZSL is a partner, has investigated in England and Wales since 2001.

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Orcas are a priority species for research by ZSL as they are top predators which can absorb significant concentrations of marine pollutants such as chemicals known as PCBs which accumulate as they go up the food chain.

ZSL's Rob Deaville and Matt Perkins collected blubber, liver, muscle and kidney samples from the marine mammal, which was internally mostly intact despite its apparently decomposed condition having probably died weeks ago.

According to The Wildlife Trusts, there is a small resident group of orcas around the west coast of the UK and Ireland while a separate group migrates to the Shetland and Orkney Islands in early summer to feed on herring.

The team found plastic in the first stomach, though it had not killed the orca as the organ was not blocked.

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