Condition Scoring of the European Harbour Porpoise Using Direct and Indirect Techniques
American Association of Zoo Veterinarians Conference 2006
Helen Provan1, BVM&S, MSc, MRCVS; Matthew W. Perkins2, BSc; R. Deaville3, BSc; Paul D. Jepson4, BVMS, PhD, MRCVS
1Cupar, Fife, Scotland; 2Wildlife Epidemiology Unit, Institute of Zoology, London, England; 3Research Assistant, UK Marine Mammal Strandings Project (UKMMSP), Institute of Zoology, London, England; 4Coordinator, Marine Mammal Strandings Research, Zoological Society of London, London, England
The United Kingdom has few short-term and no long-term facilities for the treatment and rehabilitation of stranded cetaceans. As a result, clinicians and rescue teams must rely purely on clinical examination and, when available, simple diagnostic tests at the scene of a stranding. Condition (nutritive) scoring can be a valuable prognostic indicator but is generally subjective. Provided references are available; the implementation of ultrasound to measure blubber thickness would help to standardize condition scoring. The Lean-Meater Back-Fat Ultrasound machine is compact and easy to use and therefore ideal for stranding situations of small cetaceans, where bulky equipment would be unpractical. Calibration of this machine was investigated by measuring the level of agreement between blubber thickness measured directly and the thickness measurements obtained with the ultrasound machine on fresh cetacean carcasses examined at the Institute of Zoology (Zoological Society of London). Reference ranges of dorsal, lateral, and ventral blubber thickness were calculated for UK-stranded harbour porpoises (Phocoena phocoena) using a dataset of standardized blubber measurements and other findings from postmortem examinations of UK-stranded porpoises, conducted between 1990 and 2004. The reference ranges took into account age, gender, season, and location of stranding and cause of death (as determined by postmortem).
The authors thank British Divers Marine Life Rescue for the donation of the Renco Lean-Meater ultrasound machine and the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society for their assistance with funding.