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First stranded killer whale in 20 years found off Norfolk coast

PUBLISHED: 06:41 15 January 2020 | UPDATED: 13:21 15 January 2020

A juvenile male killer whale that was stranded in The Wash, East Anglia. Experts are investigating the first confirmed stranding of an orca in England and Wales for almost 20 years. Photo: ZSL/PA Wire

A juvenile male killer whale that was stranded in The Wash, East Anglia. Experts are investigating the first confirmed stranding of an orca in England and Wales for almost 20 years. Photo: ZSL/PA Wire

Experts are investigating the first confirmed stranding of an orca in England and Wales for almost 20 years - off the Norfolk coast.

A juvenile male killer whale that was stranded in The Wash, East Anglia. Experts are investigating the first confirmed stranding of an orca in England and Wales for almost 20 years. Photo: ZSL/PA WireA juvenile male killer whale that was stranded in The Wash, East Anglia. Experts are investigating the first confirmed stranding of an orca in England and Wales for almost 20 years. Photo: ZSL/PA Wire

The Zoological Society of London (ZSL) said the juvenile male killer whale, approximately 15ft long, became stranded in salt marsh in The Wash between Norfolk and Lincolnshire.

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.

MORE - Stranded whale is "alarm bell" for state of our seas

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.

A juvenile male killer whale that was stranded in The Wash, East Anglia. Experts are investigating the first confirmed stranding of an orca in England and Wales for almost 20 years. Photo: ZSL/PA WireA juvenile male killer whale that was stranded in The Wash, East Anglia. Experts are investigating the first confirmed stranding of an orca in England and Wales for almost 20 years. Photo: ZSL/PA Wire

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.

Tests will analyse the samples for marine contaminants, while genetic analysis will help determine which population the animal came from and teeth have been collected to accurately assess its age.

The 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, though it had not killed the orca as the stomach was not blocked.

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