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Could a red tide be the cause of the two stranded whales?



Mote Marine Laboratory receives 2 pygmy killer whales on Wednesday, August 29, 2018.

Photos of Conor Goulding / Mote Marine Laboratory

SARASOTA, Fla (WFLA) – Two dwarf killer whales stranded in Clearwater are now being treated at the Mote Marine Lab. Scientists are trying to find out if the red tide is the culprit.

Wednesday morning, a shocking sight appeared in Clearwater: two dwarf killer whales. Of course, it was surprising for beach visitors, but it was also surprising for the researchers, because not much is known about these creatures.

"They are pretty rare," said Gretchen Lovewell, Program Manager for Mote Marine Laboratory Stranding's Investigation Program

The whales receive fluids and antibiotics. Blood samples were taken to see if they were suffering from red tide.

"We do not know, these animals strand quite often when they come close to the shore and we will test them for them, there are currently no signs of their behavior that we suspect, but we will certainly test it," he said Love Well.

They are monitored 24 hours a day by volunteers and staff.

"One animal had to be supported and run all night, the other animal was swimming freely," she explained.

Researchers say it's possible that they got sick because they had eaten sea life that was infested with the poisonous algae.

These first days are critical; most stranded whales do not survive very long.

Officials said Wednesday that three other whales were near the coast. Luckily they did not get lost themselves, but it's always possible.

"We are on high alert for at least the next few days to see if these others are coming," Lovewell said.

Whales survive, but they only take it day after day.

"I will not be too optimistic right now, I just stay alert," Lovewell said.

This gives the scientists a rare opportunity.

"They are animals that are poorly understood because we only see them when people are off the coast, so we now have a really great opportunity to learn from these animals regardless of exit," Lovewell said.

The blood samples will take a few weeks to process, so it may take a while to see if Red Flood has made these animals sick.

If the whales survive, officials expect to put markers so they can be monitored for release.

The treatments are very expensive. Mote is a non-profit organization and these medicines cost several thousand dollars. If you are interested in supporting Mote, click here.


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