Another whale
beaches on Maui

The three found since Saturday
are believed to have been together

WAILUKU » A third pygmy sperm whale whose carcass surfaced on a south Maui shore probably beached itself about the same time as two others, including a mother and a calf.

"I think they all three were together," said David Matilla, science and rescue coordinator for the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary.

Matilla said the third pygmy sperm whale, a male about 10 feet long, was in an advanced state of decomposition when found Sunday at Kealia Beach, and examiners were unable to conduct a necropsy to determine the cause of death.

Portions of the body had also been eaten by sharks, probably after dying, he said.

The analysis of tissue samples from a 9-foot long female pygmy sperm whale that was euthanized Saturday will probably be completed in about a month, federal fisheries spokeswoman Wende Goo said.

Goo said a preliminary examination showed no visible acoustic trauma to the female, indicating the stranding did not take place as a result of injury from sonar emissions in the ocean.

Matilla said there is a greater frequency of death that occurs from other factors, such as old age, disease and child birth.

He said there has been no sighting of the 4-foot-long, 75-pound calf since it bolted away from those caring for it in a fish pond Saturday night.

"I think the thing probably died pretty quickly," he said.

The whales were spotted by members of the Kihei Canoe Club near the Sugar Beach condominiums in northern Kihei at about 2:30 p.m. Saturday, several hundred feet away from one another.

With the help of a truck and a sling from the Maui Ocean Center, dozens of people helped move the whales to a fishpond near the sanctuary office about a mile south from the beach.

Officials decided to euthanize the mother at 11 p.m. Saturday.

Matilla said a woman reported seeing the male carcass at about 10 a.m. Sunday about a mile north of where the other two had been seen.

Federal fisheries officials said there have been at least 22 reported strandings of pygmy sperm whales in the Hawaiian Islands between 1949 and 2002.

On Maui, a stranding of a pygmy sperm whale occurred in 2001 and another in 2003.

Federal officials were researching records to see if there might be any indications of a trend in the deaths.

Officials said the species, not listed as endangered or threatened under federal law, live in deep ocean in tropical and warm-temperate waters and their numbers have been estimated from a minimum of 4,082 to 7,251 in Hawaiian waters.

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