Coast KZN

30 Mar 2018

When NOT to return a stranded sea creature to the ocean

Vee Ramsayi (South Coast Herald) Picture: Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife's marine ecologist Jennifer Olbers.

The experts were on hand to give practical advice.

When we protect wildlife and promote biodiversity, we also protect the ecosystems that underlie our economies and well-being. That’s exactly what was discussed at the well-attended stranded marine animals meeting at the Ramsgate Whale Deck last Saturday. The workshop was organised by the KZN Marine Stranding Network, coordinated by Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, together with various other organisations including uShaka Sea World and KZN Sharks Board.

A number of professionals who have been dealing with stranded animals for many years shared their knowledge and experiences on how best to deal with a distressed animal. Sea turtles were discussed by Santosh Bachoo (Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife), whales and whale sharks by Mike Anderson Reade (KZN Sharks Board) and seals, dolphins and birds by Haley Tennant (uShaka Sea World).

Guests were reminded not to return any animal back to the water without consulting the authorities or experts. Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife’s Jennifer Olbers said that from iconic endangered whales, graceful sea turtles to various fish, deep sea octopus and majestic seabirds, these creatures capture our imagination, inspire us and are essential for a healthy ocean.

“These animals are on the shore because they are compromised in one way or another and returning them to the water is potentially going to kill or drown them. It is the purpose of the KZN Marine Stranding Network to assess each animal and select the best option for their welfare and survival, which may be rehabilitation, relocation or in some cases to euthanise the animal as they are too sick or injured to survive,” explained Ms Olbers.

“It is very important to remain calm when an animal comes ashore. It is imperative not to touch or pet the animal and keep crowds away as these animals are not accustomed to humans. Having people around them causes an immense amount of stress, even when people’s intentions are good.”

If you come across an animal on the beach (dead or alive), report it immediately to the KZN Marine Stranding Network. Even if the animal is dead, there is still vital information that can be gathered for scientific research. To report call uShaka Sea World at 031 3288222 during office hours or 031 3288060 after hours.