Scientists are applauding the efforts of a Hawaii Island resident and an education specialist from the DLNR’s Division of Aquatic Resources for their efforts to transport a 1,300-pound endangered false killer whale from Hawaii Island to Oahu.
By recovering the whale’s body, researchers are given the opportunity to determine the cause of death, which can help protect the species in the future.
In early November, resident Rodney Kuahiwinui sighted a dead whale at South Point near Kau and immediately called John Kahiapo from DAR.
Through text messages that included pictures of the whale, marine mammal experts were able to identify the animal as a highly endangered false killer whale.
Kau is one the most remote areas in the state, with many sections that are hard to access. Fortunately, Kuahiwinui raises cattle on Hawaiian Home Lands and owns the heavy equipment needed to transport the whale. Using an engine hoist, he was able to lift the animal and place it onto his flatbed truck.
With his family, he made the four-hour journey to Kona where the animal was transported by Transair to Honolulu for examination.
Scientists were able to determine that the adult female, first documented in 2004 and re-sighted eight times near Oahu and Hawaii Island, died from abnormal blood clot formations in the heart and lungs.
“Without the unwavering efforts of Rodney and John, we would not have been able to find out why this animal died,” said Dr. Kristi West, head of Hawaii Pacific University’s stranding program. “From my perspective, they really are heroes.”
Only three Hawaiian false killer whales have been reported stranded in the past 18 years. “With less than 200 individuals alive today, every piece of information is critical,” says Dr. West. “If we want to understand the threats facing these animals, we need the public’s help.”
People are asked to call 1-888-256-9840 or local authorities immediately if they observe a dolphin or whale stranded on the beach or unusually close to shore.
Hawaii Pacific University typically responds to 20 strandings of whales and dolphins per year in the Hawaiian Islands. Approximately 20 percent of all reported cetacean strandings in the main Hawaiian Islands represent endangered whales.
The DLNR was recently awarded nearly $1.2 million from the federal government to support the conservation and recovery of Hawaii’s endangered false filler whales.For more information on false killer whales in Hawaii, click here.