Subject: Stranding: Mass stranding of beaked whales in Puerto Rico (fwd)

Mike Williamson (
Fri, 31 Jul 1998 16:36:49 -0400 (EDT)

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Fri, 31 Jul 1998 13:57:27 -0400
From: "Dr.Antonio A.Mignucci-Giannoni" <>
Reply-To: Marine Mammals Research and Conservation Discussion
Subject: Mass stranding of beaked whales in Puerto Rico

A mass stranding of 5 goosebeak whales (Ziphius cavirostris) occurred
Wednesday night and Thursday (29 and 30 July 1998) in Aguadilla, Puerto
Rico. The Caribbean Stranding Network, a local non-profit scientific and
conservation organization based at the Metropolitan University in San
Juan, attended to the strandings, which involved 1 adult female and 4
males (1 adult, 3 juveniles). The largest animal measured 18 feet, while
the smallest was about 14 feet in length. Local agencies, including
Puerto Rico's Department of Natural and Environmental Resources, Civil
Defense and Commonwealth, Municipal and Maritime Police, aided the CSN in
handling the stranding emergency. CSN personnel with over a dozen
volunteer and intern college-students from Puerto Rico's Metropolitan
University, University of Puerto Rico, Interamerican University and Long
Island University-Southampton College, spent over 24 hours tending to the
stranding cases.

Most of the animals were externally in good shape, outside scratches from
being stranded in the rocks. The female, the first to strand, was found
in worst shape. The two last animals to strand did so alive, but after
rescuing and examining the animals, the decission was made by the CSN and
Puerto Rico's Department of Natural and Environmental Resources to
euthanize them given their condition, logistical difficulties in
moving/transporting the animals (either back to sea or to a pool), and
the slim possibilities of a successful rehabilitation. They were
euthanized humanely by injection to the heart under the guidance of CSN
attending veterinarian Cesar Ruiz.

Necropsies were conducted on each animal, documenting gross findings,
taking tissues for histopathology and collecting parasites from the
blubber, stomach, liver and kidneys. Skin tissue was collected for future
genetic work. The large male was found to have stalked barnacles attached
to its front teeth, and signs of a cookie-cutter shark bite. All animals
were found to have squid beaks and deep-water shrimp in their stomachs.
The skull of each animal was collected for the CSN scientific collection;
the remainders of the carcasses were buried, or in two of the cases towed
out 15 miles to sea.

While a number of single strandigns of Ziphius have been recorded in
Puerto Rico, this is the third mass stranding of goosebeak whales in the
northeastern Caribbean. In 1965/1966, an epizootic event occured in the
south and eastern coast of Puerto Rico when 11 Ziphius stranded in La
Parguera, Patillas and eastern coast of the island between December 1965
and March 1966. In February 1991, 4 goosebeaks stranded in St. Croix in
the US Virgin Islands.

Dr. Antonio A. Mignucci-Giannoni
Scientific Coordinator-Caribbean Stranding Network
Associate Professor-Universidad Metropolitana
PO Box 38030 San Juan PR 00937 USA
Tel & Fax 787-767-8009
Emergencies 787-399-8432, 787-402-2337 (unit 990-0440)
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