Coast KZN

24 Sep 2017

What to do if you find mammals washed up

Erin Hanekom (Southlands Sun)

Call the professionals immediately.

WHEN dealing with a marine animal that has washed up on the shore, it is best to keep away and contact the professionals, warns Gabrielle Harris, uShaka Marine World’s curator of animal behaviour management.

A dolphin was found on Cuttings Beach earlier this week and a group of well-intentioned witnesses did their utmost to get the stricken creature back into the ocean. This however, could have caused more harm.

“The worst thing to do is stress it out by trying to pull it to the backline,” said Harris.

The 2m long dolphin at Cuttings Beach which, according to eyewitnesses, was struggling to breathe, did not seem to want to return to the water and sadly died. The bystanders then moved its body back into the ocean and it was lost in the current.

She added that the amount of foreign stimuli from many human hands forcing the mammal to where it does not want to can cause stress and hamper its ability to recover.

“The first thing we must remember is that dolphins and whales are mammals and they breathe air, so don’t pour water down its blowhole.

Secondly, they wash up for a reason and this is usually because they are compromised in some way. There are a number of reasons why this might be but the most likely is they have travelled into shallow water to breathe properly. So trying to get them out into the deeper water is contrary to what the dolphin might want.”

She urges people to keep back and call the professionals immediately. These people have the experience necessary to judge the situation and decide how best to assist.

“We know the public cares, which is why they try to help but the best way to help is to get the most informed people there as quickly as possible.”

What should you do if you come across an already deceased marine life?

“Call us too,” said Harris. “Research will need to be done on the carcass so we can determine what caused the death – was it disease, pollutants or something else. It could also be an unusual species for the area and the experts will need to figure out why it was there.

uShaka is participating in the International Coast Clean-up this weekend and we urge you to do the same. Even if you can’t get to a beach to clean up, just pick up any plastic or other litter around your homes to prevent it reaching the sea.”

Call the 24-hour uShaka hotline on 031-328-8222 if you come across any marine life that has washed up on the beaches.