September 15, 2008

Cancer Likely Cause of Dolphin’s Death

Kelly, Napier Marineland's last dolphin probably died of cancer, a team of Massey University researchers determined yesterday.

A tumour the size of a mandarin was discovered inside the otherwise healthy dolphin during a post- mortem examination at Massey's Veterinary Teaching Hospital.

The 38-year-old dolphin had been unwell for several days and died on Wednesday.

She had been at Napier's Marineland since 1974.

Wildlife health centre director Dr Brett Gartrell said the main findings were indicators of Kelly's remarkably old age for a dolphin.

"But we also found what we think is cancer at the base of her stomach. The mass is being tested and we will know for sure in a couple of weeks.

"What we do know is that she was in really good body condition, and that she had no parasites or long- standing disease other than the cancer."

The 95kg common dolphin's body remains at the vet teaching facility on the Palmerston North campus.

"Her body is being used by researchers studying wild dolphin," Dr Gartrell said, "so there will be some good to come from her death much like the way a human body left to medical research can contribute".

Staff at the University's Institute for Veterinary Animal and Biomedical Sciences undertake post-mortem examinations many times each year, on wildlife ranging from birds to marine mammals.

Dr Gartrell was assisted by Masters student Jodi Salinsky and marine biologist Karen Stockin.


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