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Eric Lewis, curator of the Moruga museum, stands next to a dead whale which washed up at the La Lune beach in Moruga yesterday.

A fourth whale beached at La Lune Beach yesterday. It was spotted on the shoreline around 6 am. Residents, game wardens and the police assisted in lifting the whale onto the tray of a pick-up and transporting it to another beach where it was guided back out to sea.

Hours later, at around 4 pm, two dead whales washed ashore at another area of the beach. Then at around 12.30 pm, another dead whale was spotted on the shore about a mile away from where the two other whales beached. Moruga museum curator Eric Lewis has taken possession of the three carcasses.

What exactly is causing the whales to die is not yet known, but the T&T Marine Mammal Stranding Network (TTMMSN) has warned members of the public not to touch the stranded marine mammals. Veterinarian Dr Wade Seukeran said the TTMMSN has responded to reports of stranded melon-headed whales at various coastlines and necropsies performed on some of the whales revealed that they died from a disease.

According to the TTMMSN, marine mammals that wash ashore are typically ill and could be harbouring infectious organisms that may be harmful to humans and other animals.

“Further, it is advised to NOT push, pull or drag live stranded marine mammals back into the water.

“Though well-meaning, this action often does more harm to the animal than good, as such ill animals are predisposed to drowning. The public is therefore again urged to avoid handling and/or consuming marine mammals that wash ashore, as this may pose a significant public health risk,” the TTMMSM said in a release.

The TTMMSN said marine mammals are protected in T&T and interacting with or handling them without a permit is an offence.

Lewis, who said he is authorised to handle the marine mammals, will be operating on them to determine how they died.

He plans to keep the bones at the museum so that they will be available for research by national and international university students and professionals.

Anticipating that more whales will be washing up in the coming days, Lewis has also set up a watch group to monitor the shorelines at Grand Chemin, La Rufin, Marac and La Retraite.

Wildlife biologist Romano Macfarlane who heads the Wildlife Section of the Forestry Division, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

The TTMMSN can be contacted at 735-3530, while the Forestry’s Wildlife Section can be contacted at 662-5114, 645-4288, or 639-2570.