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Pygmy whale was ailing before it beached on Maui


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POSTED: Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A pygmy killer whale that was euthanized during the weekend was dying from pneumonia, according to a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration biologist.

A CAT scan showed the killer whale had lost use of its left lung and part of its right lung because they were diseased, said David Schofield, marine mammal response coordinator for the National Marine Fisheries Service, in a news briefing yesterday.

In addition, necropsy results indicated the mammal showed signs of liver disease. The pygmy whale was described as an older adult male, 300 pounds and about 8 feet long.

The whale beached itself Friday off Maalaea Harbor on Maui. A group of people, however, apparently pushed it back into the ocean.

Schofield said waves caused the mammal to pound against a breakwall at the harbor. Lifeguards and marine mammal response officials arrived and got the whale out of the water. Schofield urged the public not to push a beached whale back into the ocean because it is likely the mammal is debilitated.