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What killed dozens of dead porpoises that washed up on a Dutch beach?

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By Euronews & AFP
One of the dead porpoises on the beach in the Wadden Islands.
One of the dead porpoises on the beach in the Wadden Islands.   -   Copyright  Stranding Research/ Instagram

Dutch scientists are trying to find out what caused the death of over 100 porpoises in just a week after their bodies were washed up on a beach in the Netherlands.

Lonneke IJsseldijk, a scientist at Utrecht University, told Euronews that autopsies would take place at the end of this month on 22 of the mammals after the mass beachings on the Wadden Islands, an archipelago in the North Sea.

Scientists will look at whether the porpoises, between 200 and 900 0f which wash up on Dutch beaches each year, could have succumbed to disease or whether their deaths were linked to human activity.

“It is too soon to speculate about the cause for this particular mass stranding event, but I can tell you that we will screen samples extensively for microbiology - viruses and bacteria - and harmful algae,” she wrote in a statement on Instagram.

“We will investigate the general health status and nutritional status of the porpoises, and whether there are signs of trauma.”

IJsseldijk added that the Dutch government was currently investigating whether “human activities’ had taken place in the area following speculation that the mammals could have been affected by military exercises in the North Sea or even poisoned.

Annemarie van den Berg, director of NGO SOS Dolphins, told AFP that the stranded dolphins were all in a similar state of decomposition, suggesting that “all of these animals died in the same area.”

"Something strange is happening in the Wadden Sea," she said.