Whale mass-stranding training session held at False Bay
False Bay, Cape Town, 30 May 2016
On Saturday 28 May 2016, 90 local members of the South African Stranding Network (SASN) attended a three hour training session that was jointly presented by the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) Branch Oceans and Coasts and the City of Cape Town (COCT) at the NSRI Strandfontein beach rescue centre. During the training session two life-like model whales were used in simulations of rescue procedures for stranded cetaceans that have been adopted under a National Response Plan developed by this network and coordinated by the DEA.
Species such as the false killer whale, pilot whale, sperm whale and Risso’s dolphin are among the cetaceans most commonly involved in mass stranding events worldwide. These cetaceans have in common that they are predominantly open-ocean dwellers and are highly gregarious. Therefore their tendency to mass strand has generally been attributed to their strong social bonds and their unfamiliarity with coastal environments when they occasionally venture inshore.
The establishment of the SASN was galvanised by a sizable mass stranding of false killer whales at Long beach, Kommetjie in 2009, where the need for well-trained personnel and specialised equipment available at short notice was highlighted.
The training course covered support care and stabilisation aimed at preventing live stranded animals from dying and reducing stress, as well as procedures to increase their chances of survival once they are returned to sea for example by helping them regain equilibrium in the water. One of the model whales was lifted in a stretcher by a front end loader using a specialized frame and placed onto a trailer which was then transported to the Strandfontein pool to “prepare and acclimatize it for release”.
Participating in the training were NSRI volunteers from six NSRI bases, rangers of the Table Mountain National Park and personnel from Two Oceans Aquarium, SPCA, SAPS, SANCCOB, the Department of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries, DEA and COCT. There were two veterinarians present. The DEA and the COCT intend to have annual sessions to train or retrain personnel that will collectively respond to strandings and ensure that the appropriate infrastructure, manpower and expertise are available to respond at short notice to any local mass stranding events.
‘Enhancing partnerships through such training initiatives between government, non-governmental organisation, and private sector stakeholders as well as members of the public, are vital. We are doing everything in our power to improve our sustainability best practices and to preserve our oceans and its important marine life,’ said the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Energy, Environmental and Spatial Planning, Councillor Johan van der Merwe.
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Mike Meyer (Oceans and Coasts Branch of DEA)
Cell: + 27 82 578 7617
Tel: +27 21 819 5059
Gregg Oelofse (City of Cape Town)
Cell: +27 83 940 8143
Tel: +27 21 487 2239
Issued by the Department of Environmental Affairs and the City of Cape Town