Shell to pay cost of whale necropsy

Mike Harvey, of Kaka Point, uses his tractor to shift a dead pilot whale to the roadside in...
Mike Harvey, of Kaka Point, uses his tractor to shift a dead pilot whale to the roadside in preparation for its transportation to Dunedin while Invercargill-based Department of Conservation planner Brian Murphy looks on. Photo by Helena de Reus.

Oil giant Shell will cover the cost of a necropsy (animal autopsy) on the long-fin pilot whale which died after beaching itself at Kaka Point on Thursday night.

A Department of Conservation (Doc) spokeswoman told the Otago Daily Times the necropsy would be paid for by Shell, as part of an agreement between the two parties. Shell New Zealand is undertaking a seismic survey off the Otago coast.

Operators are required to submit a marine mammal impact assessment to Doc as part of the pre-survey planning for a seismic survey.

Doc staff used a tractor to remove the 4.5m whale from the rocks, and transported it to Dunedin on a trailer. The whale was in Dunedin by mid-afternoon yesterday.

Veterinary pathologist Stu Hunter, of Massey University, arrived in Dunedin last night to carry out the necropsy.

Mr Hunter said he planned to remove the whale's head and take it to the Marinoto Clinic for a CT scan.

A full necropsy would be carried out - organs examined, brains removed and samples taken.

''We'll try to figure out what caused this poor thing to beach itself.''

Mr Hunter will be helped by Doc staff and members of the University of Otago zoology department.

Kaka Point residents, police, firefighters and the Kaka Point Surf Life Saving Club spent more than two hours on Thursday night trying to help the injured whale back out to sea. By 9pm rescue efforts were called off and the whale was eventually left to die on the rocks.

Doc ranger Chris Bennett, of Owaka, said a whale would normally be euthanised in that situation, but no-one in the area had the right skills, so it was left to die.

- helena.dereus@odt.co.nz

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