Well-known harbor porpoise found dead in Zeeland

A well-known harbor porpoise, L008R003 or 'Willemien', was found dead in the Zeeland holiday resort of Roompot Marina last week, the cetacean monitoring group Rugvin Foundation announced on Monday.

According to the group, which carries out photo-identification research on the porpoises in the Oosterschelde coastal area, Willemien had been the most famous porpoise in the region. She was easily recognized by the many scars on her body gotten from battling seals. She had been sighted more times than any other porpoise in the area, earning her a personal name before she had even been assigned an identification code, the group said.

Harbor porpoises are one of the smallest species of marine mammals, known to grow only to 85 centimeters in length. They are often sighted along coastal areas of the Netherlands, where they feed on small fish, squid and crustaceans.

Willemien was found dead by passers-by on the pier at Sophiahaven, near the Roompot Marina, on Thursday last week, the Rugvin Foundation confirmed. "The cause of death of the animal is still unknown. The cadaver has been frozen so that the harbor porpoise can be examined later by the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine of Utrecht University," the group wrote in a statement.

According to the group, the cadaver will be closely examined to determine the cause of death and other potentially valuable information, with DNA set to be extracted, stomach contents searched and teeth inspected to determine approximate age.

"Because the corpse was already decomposing, the cause of death may no longer be determined," the group added.