Workshop focuses on first aid for stranded marine animals

On 4 February 2017, the KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) Marine Stranding Network hosted a public workshop on first aid for stranded marine animals at uShaka Sea World.

Hayley Tennant from uShaka Sea World, Tyron Hudson, Samantha Hudson, James Wood from Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, Abigail Rohde, John Nicolas from the National Sea Rescue Institute, Quentin Powers from Specialised Rescue Ballito and Rob Brown, an honorary officer from North Durban Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife. (Image: uShaka Sea World)

In KwaZulu-Natal there is close collaboration between various organisations including Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife; uShaka Sea World; the KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board; the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs; the National Sea Rescue Institute; the Centre for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife – and others who are collectively known as the KZN Marine Stranding Network. This group of organisations comprises trained and dedicated individuals who work together to ensure that each stranded animal is given the best possible care.

Every year an average of 35 marine animals wash on to the shore along the KwaZulu-Natal coastline. These animals include whales, dolphins, seals, whale sharks, turtles, penguins, gannets and cormorants.

The public workshop was held to create awareness among residents in coastal towns who visit the beach regularly. Participants at the workshop were taught how to assess an animal and how to collect vital information that is required by the authorities for a successful rescue attempt.

The most important outcomes of the workshop were that there are three main dangers facing a stranded animal:

  • Water: stranded animals drown easily if they are placed back into the water, with the exception of a whale shark, which has gills and requires water to breathe
  • Time: time is of the essence for any stranded animal – the longer it takes for an animal to be rescued lessens its chance of survival
  • Stress: marine animals are not familiar with people, being handled or having many people around them. Such circumstances increase their stress levels and can result in the rapid deterioration of their health

uShaka Sea World animal behaviourists demonstrate the correct technique to be used when positioning a stranded dolphin on a stretcher. (Image: uShaka Sea World)

In KwaZulu-Natal, there are three major natural phenomena that draw an increased number of marine animals to our coastline: the Sardine Run (April to July), the whale migration (May to October) and the turtle-nesting season (October to March). Every year, in addition to the animals directly involved in these natural events, there is an increase in their associated predatory species – sharks, birds and seals – all of which are prone to stranding along the coast.

KwaZulu-Natal is fortunate to have such passionate and enthusiastic members of the public who are also willing to become involved in marine conservation. It is imperative that the public becomes actively involved in reporting stranded animals to the relevant authorities. Beachgoers are the eyes and ears of the province, and the authorities rely on accurate information provided by them in order to react appropriately and timeously to assist stranded animals.

If you find a stranded animal on the beach, please contact one of the following KwaZulu-Natal Marine Stranding Network members:

  • uShaka Sea World on +27  (0)31 328 8222 (o/h) or +27  (0)31 328 8060 (a/h, weekends and on public holidays)
  • KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board on +27  (0)31 566 0400

An enthusiastic group attended the stranded marine animal workshop hosted at uShaka Sea World. (Image: uShaka Sea World)

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