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Four dead whales baffle expert

Thursday 6 Jun 2013 6:26 p.m.

Local resident Brittnay Beddoes sent in this image of the Sperm whale

Local resident Brittnay Beddoes sent in this image of the Sperm whale

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Scientists are baffled at what might have killed four whales which washed up over two days on a certain section of a West Coast beach.

All four whales were dead when they washed up at the weekend, and all belonged to different species.

The first was a 6-metre long Cuvier's beaked whale which washed up on Saturday morning at Greymouth's Cobden Beach. It is on the list of threatened species.

Later that day, a huge 15-metre long Sperm whale washed up on the beach at the end of Serpentine Rd, just 14 km south of where the Cuvier's beaked whale was discovered.

On Sunday, a 2-metre long juvenile long-finned pilot whale was discovered on Westport's North Beach, followed by a 3-metre long pigmy sperm whale in the same area.

Department of Conservation marine mammal scientist Don Neale says a quadruple dead-stranding within 48 hours is something he's never heard of before.

"It's certainly unusual and it may just be coincidence," he says. "There were some major storms at sea - that's the only likely reason I can see at the moment."

Necropsies of the whales are unlikely so the individual causes of death will probably remain unknown.

Local iwi Ngati Waiwai has removed the jawbone of the Sperm whale and the remains will be buried on the beach this week. 

The jawbone of the Cuvier's beaked whale has been stolen without permission from the iwi or the Department of Conservation and an investigation is underway to find the alleged thief.

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