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"One of the rarest marine mammals" on Earth washes ashore dead in North Carolina

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The National Park Service says scientists are trying to discover the cause of death of a whale calf belonging to "one of the rarest marine mammals" in the world after it was found stranded on a beach on North Carolina's Outer Banks. Biologists performed a necropsy on the North Atlantic right whale calf and took DNA samples Saturday.

The National Park Service at Cape Lookout National Seashore posted news of the whale's death on its Facebook page. Right whales are critically endangered. The park service says only about 360 of the animals are still alive and about five or six calves are born each year.

A right whale calf lies on its side on the beach in the foreground while two of the scientists dig around it in the sand with shovels. The other 3 in the group work in the background on processing some of the samples they took from the calf.  The National Park Service at Cape Lookout National Seashore

"Each new right whale calf brings so much hope for this critically endangered species, and losses like this have a substantial impact on their recovery," NOAA said in a news release on Monday. "Their population has been experiencing a significant decline and high juvenile and adult mortality in recent years."

NOAA said the species of whale has been experiencing an "unusual mortality event" since 2017, during which time at least 32 dead and 13 seriously injured whales have been reported.

"This represents more than 10 percent of the remaining population," NOAA said.

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