At least 24 pygmy killer whales have been found dead along the coasts of southern Taiwan since April.

Formally known as Feresa attenuate, most of the dead whales had serious infections in their livers, lungs, and spleens, and elsewhere, according to post-mortem examinations, said Huang Hsiang-wen (黃向文), minister of the Ocean Conservation Administration. Experts also identified Klebsiella, a type of bacteria that can cause various infections, in the bodies of the whales, said Huang.

The infections are believed to have made the whales unable to withstand strong currents, thus getting stranded, reported the Public Television Service on Thursday (July 9). A total of 26 pygmy killer whales have been found stranded on southern Taiwanese coasts since April.

The number doubles that of 2019, when only 13 whales were stranded throughout the year. The number in 2018 was 30, which also indicates that whales are more likely to be stranded in southern Taiwan coastal areas during spring and summer.

When the immune system of a whale is weakened, for some reason it is susceptible to bacterial infection, said Wang Hao-ven (王浩文), director of the Marine Biology and Cetacean Research Center at the Tainan-based National Cheng Kung University. When one whale is infected, it can easily spread the bacteria to others, he added.

A black and gray pygmy killer whale was recently returned to the sea after receiving treatment from a team of experts. It was found stuck on a wave block at the Kaohsiung Harbor a couple of months ago, with a lung inflammation and severe wound on its left pectoral fin.

Experts are calling for the government to allocate resources and set up an alert system in the sea so that rescue teams will be able to discover stranded whales more quickly.