We have a rather busy stranding year this year, and not enough online information on how to handle stranded cetaceans. Oh yes, I did write about it here (English version and Indonesian version), but my daily hit is not big enough at the moment. There is also an acute misunderstanding among practitioners in Indonesia about why stranding events happen, e.g., many people think that whale sharks (Rhincodon typus) and whales are the same. Now and then, we would have whale sharks entangled in fishing nets in Indonesia... and the news would read ‘A big whale stranded in XX Beach’ instead of ‘a whale shark got entangled in fishing net in YY Village’ - And that is not the only misunderstanding we have!
Occasionally, we have misleading information like this (in Indonesian), which stated, among others, that whales can store oxygen in their body for a few days before they die. Palm/face. Yes, some cetacean species can hold breath for a long time (up to more than an hour for sperm whales), thanks to excessive myoglobin in their muscle tissues, but not for a few days!
My friends and I established a mailing list called Marine Mammals Indonesia (MMI) in 2004 and we actually have been cataloguing stranding events in Indonesia back to 1987. My friends and I have published Indonesia’s stranding record from 1987 to 2007 in The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology vol. 57 no. 1. We also regularly update our internal MMI database whenever any stranding event happens in the Archipelago. However, since our post 2007 records are not published yet and MMI internal database are only accessible to members, Indonesia’s latest stranding records are largely obscured from public eye.
Therefore, I’m very pleased to announce that the Marine Mammals Indonesia will be launching a database website dedicated to catalogue cetacean stranding data in Indonesia. The website will also contain some guidelines to handle cetacean stranding events and a stranding event reporting form. Stefan Baier and Wong Ee Phin from Malaysia have been helping us with the database design (including photographs etc). They are at the moment hosting our database in their own website (www.wildandscience.com – currently under construction). Once the database is ready, we will move it to a new website of our own.
So, stay tuned for the next announcement. In this blog, I will also post a monthly update of stranding events in the Archipelago, credited to MMI and other sources. As the Japanese would say, Ganbarimasu! Please lend us your strength!
Pic: the official logo of Marine Mammals Indonesia mailing list