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Post-mortem monitoring of small cetaceans

Project data

Project leader: Prof. Prof. h. c. Dr. Ursula Siebert
Contact person: Kornelia Schmidt
Sponsorship: Ministry of Energy, Agriculture, the Environment, Nature and Digitalisation (MELUND)

Project description

Harbor porpoises are the most common whale species in the German North and Baltic Seas. Since little was known about the status of harbor porpoises near German shores in the early 90s, federal projects were established to begin data collection and develop monitoring programs. The State of Schleswig-Holstein implements part of this monitoring program by funding the monitoring of small cetacean strandings. The program investigates causes of morbidity and mortality in small cetaceans and documents changes in these findings over time. In the course of these investigations, small cetaceans are transported from the coast to the ITAW. Size and weight of the animals are then measured. Researchers perform thorough dissections and preserve tissue samples for histology, microbiology, virology, serology, parasitology and toxicology investigations. Biologic data, such as age and reproductive status, are recorded and material for feeding analysis is collected. The investigations are conducted in collaboration with the departments of pathology at the University of Veterinary Medicine Hanover and the University of Giessen (Justus-Liebig-Universität). In addition, tissue samples can be provided to other research institutions.



Harbour porpoise with skin lesions. © ITAW

Fishing net marks on the fin of a harbor porpoise. © ITAW
Harbor porpoise strandings in Schleswig-Holstein and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania in 2010.

Contact person

Institute for Terrestrial and Aquatic Wildlife Research

Werftstr. 6
25761 Büsum


Kornelia Wolff-Schmidt


Stiftung Tierärztliche Hochschule Hannover
Institute for Terrestrial and Aquatic Wildlife Research
Werftstr. 6
25761 Büsum
Tel.:+49 511 856-8167
Fax.:+49 511 856-8181
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