Monday, 25 March 2013

20 pilot whales washed ashore at Noordhoek – 14 dead and 6 rescued

At approximately 07:00 this morning [Sunday, 24 March 2013] the City’s Disaster Risk Management Centre received numerous calls from members of the public that whales has washed ashore at Long Beach in Kommetjie.

Upon arrival by the authorities it was found that 20 pilot whales measuring between 3 to 4 metres have washed ashore and it was not clear for how long they were beached. These species can measure from three to six metres long and weigh anywhere between a thousand and two thousand kilos.

During this morning the NSRI successfully rescued 1 whale by putting it back into the water that swam free that was not spotted thereafter.

Shortly thereafter 4 whales were declared deceased and another whale by mid-day during the rescue efforts.

The authorities successfully rescued another 5 whales that were transported from Long Beach to the Simon’s Town Naval Base.

The SA Navy assisted by taking the 5 whales from the Simon’s Town Naval Base five nautical miles off-shore. Two whales were conveyed on-board the SAS Indlovu tugboat; and the other three were loaded on-board the SAS Tshuduku.

Unfortunately the scientists from the Department of Environmental Affairs determined that nine (9) pilot whales had to be euthanized as their condition was very critical and there was no hope for survival.

These marine mammals were distressed and were breathing very rapidly. The marine scientists assessed the animals and indicated that they were very dehydrated. Many of them sustained pressure injuries to their internal organs due to been out of the water for a considerable amount of time. Their conditions deteriorated by them not been in the water and not been buoyant resulting suffocation as they were lying on their organs due to their weight.

After 18:00 this evening the SA Navy assisted the City of Cape Town and the Department of Environmental Affairs to float these marine mammals by taking them off-shore in deeper water with the intent that they will survive.

The SA Navy will conduct routine patrols with its naval watercraft throughout the night and at first light tomorrow morning to establish whether the rescue operation was successful or whether the whales has beached again.

Whale beaching’s not uncommon along the South African coast and it is a world-wide phenomenon that occurs when whales get disoriented and are unable to swim back into deep water.

Another reason why they strand is when a pod follows a sick or injured whale into the shallows resulting in them getting stranded.

The City of Cape Town officials that include the Environmental Resource Management Department; Solid Waste Management; Fleet and Mechanical Services; Law Enforcement and Specialised Services and Metropolitan Police Department took quick charge over the incident under the direction of the Disaster Risk Management Centre.

The City of Cape Town was assisted by the Department of Environmental Affairs; SA Navy; the South African Police Services; the Table Mountain National Park, the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI); The Shark Spotter Programme; the SPCA; small holding farmers and numerous other volunteer and private organisations.

The City of Cape Town is also very pleased with the overwhelming assistance by the general public that assisted with watering the whales and assisting when the loading of the marine mammals.

Wilfred Solomons-Johannes, the City’s Deputy Head of Disaster Risk Management Centre said “that the entire operation was very well managed in rescuing some of the whales that could be saved”.

The scientists from the Oceans & Coast Branch of the Department of Environmental Affairs took samples of the deceased marine mammals to conduct a necropsy [post-portem] to establish the cause of death.

The carcasses were transported to the Vissershok Landfill Site by the City’s Solid Waste Management Department for disposal.

Pictures loading the rescued pilot whales at Simon’s Town Naval Base onto tug boats and releasing them 5 nautical miles off-shore. - Bruce Sutherland, Principal Photographer, City of Cape Town.


Issued by: Disaster Risk Management Centre, City of Cape Town

Media enquiries: Wilfred Solomons-Johannes, Head: Systems Integration, Special Projects and Disaster Operations, Disaster Risk Management Centre, City of Cape Town

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