Death of young whale a mystery
A WHALE expert was unable to find a reason why a lone melon-headed whale beached itself at Ballina's Lighthouse Beach last week.
The juvenile male was reported to Australian Seabird Rescue on Wednesday of last week by a local woman who had spotted it thrashing about in the shallow water.
Lance Ferris, founder and co-ordinator of Australian Seabird Rescue, went to the aid of the whale, but it died before he arrived on the scene.
Melon-headed whales, which are part of the dolphin family, travel in large herds, and there was a fear that other whales could soon follow the young animal onto the beach.
The whale's body was taken to ASR headquarters ? the WildlifeLink Sanctuary at North Creek Road ? for an autopsy by zoologist and PhD student, Christine Fury of Southern Cross University's Whale Research Centre.
She spent several hours searching for a reason why the 167cm-long whale, estimated to weigh 80kg, beached it- self, but with 'no significant results'.
"It was a fairly healthy animal, but there was no food in its stomach ? it hadn't eaten for days," she said.
"This one was a bit tricky."
She found an abscess near the whale's mouth, and said that may have been the cause of an infection in the blood, meaning the whale became separated from its mother as it was sick.
However, that theory can't be confirmed because of limit- ed funding for pathology tests.