Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Live-stranding of a dwarf sperm whale 19 Feb 13

Ini adalah versi bahasa Inggris untuk kejadian terdampar di Sanur (19 Feb 2013). Klik link ini untuk versi Indonesia-nya.

Surfers and local boys of Sanur trying to save the animal

We had a stranding event of a (suspect) pygmy killer whale (Feresa attenuata ) dwarf sperm whale (Kogia sima) this morning in Sanur, Bali (19 Feb 2013). One animal, stranded twice. First at 7am, where the local surfers and beach boys herded the animal back to the deeper water. At 9am, the same animal returned to the same place. This time, the locals and the surfers loaded the poor thing into a jukung and went to deeper water to release it. May it roams safely out there at sea and will never strand again. Approximate body length: 2 m.

I learned of this news from Benjamin Kahn, who got the heads up from Femke JAAN (Thanks Ben and Femke for the heads up!). I arrived in Semawang Sanur around 11 am. Together with Pariama Hutasoit who arrived before me, we collected the above information. I obtained the pictures from a Japanese surfer girl (Nunome Jun-san) who took the photographs and helped the rescue. All photo credit is to Jun-san (Jun-san, arigatou zonjimasu!).

I'm concerned with the many wounds on its body. I’ve sent the pictures to a vet friend of mine for expert opinion. 

Also, from the pictures, it seems the people in Sanur had very good heart to help it, but they might have mis-handled the poor thing. I’m afraid that some rescuers held onto the pectoral fins of the animal (which is a big no, because pectoral fins are very fragile, easily broken). When I talked to the surfers, one of them might have poured water into the blow hole (perhaps in an attempt to give the animal drink. Or they might think the blow hole functions as a radiator...). Another surfer also stood too close to the fluke. When the animal panicked, the surfer ‘enjoyed’ the panic swipe of the animal’s fluke and almost hurt himself. 

This poor baby had lots of pre-stranding injuries

But then again, before I was trained, I didn't know the best way to handle stranded marine mammals either. So please refrain from judging these kind-hearted people. What needs to be done is giving them proper, practical training on how to rescue the animals. [a post on my recent stranding symposium and training in the Philippines is coming soon]

I usually compare a stranding event with a traffic accident (knock knock on the wood). Rescue effort is kindly meant. However, inexperienced rescuers might actually give more injuries to the victim. It’s not that we shouldn’t help a traffic accident victim; I think we should. But it’s much better if we know first aid. 

The rescuers brought my darling baby to deeper water. I hope it is safe and sound now...

I spoke with my colleague Sarminto of the Area and Species Conservation Directorate (Ministry of Marine and Fisheries Affairs) after the event. As the continuation of the national stranding protocol, this year the Ministry is planning several rescue training all over Indonesia. We gathered that the first training should be in Bali. First responder training, targeting beach boys and surfers in Sanur, Kuta etc. Practical stuff, no lengthy documents for them to read. Inflatable vinyl dolphins for demo. Maximum two hours session; surfers might not want to participate in an event taking more than two hours. Check the tide chart. Don’t do that during good swell days; no one will join as they are riding the waves...

Rescue credits:  Wayan Bima, Agus Giri, Ariana, Mogel, Made Sudarma, Mochang, Eka, Wayan Wiranata, Meranggi (Brotot), Mangku Weta, Jun-san, Machiko-san, etc. Special thanks to Ena Dive for providing Pariama and myself with a 'temporary office' for a few hours that day.

Update 20 Feb 2013:

I've received a comment from Nimal Fernando, senior veterinarian from Ocean Park Hong Kong (thanks, Nimal!). Here's what he said:

The wounds look like abrasions, not very deep but quite extensive , so perhaps not incurred by a vehicle impact , but possibly from abrasions incurred during stranding (rocks / coral are possible) 

As you know from our first responder presentation , they are probably not handling the animal as well as they should , there are photos with only one person on the animal .  What concerns me most , is the boat transport where it looks like the animal is being transported without any foam / mattress to support the body weight.  This will add to the stress on the chest / body etc. and exacerbate any respiratory distress.”

I forgot about the mattress. Not that I would remember it if I was there. OMG, so much to do...

Update 21 Feb 2013:

The jury is still out to decide whether this species is Feresa attenuata or Kogia sp. (either pygmy sperm whale or dwarf sperm whale). Will upload the final verdict when it's there!

Update 22 Feb 2013:

The jury verdict is out! A team of online juries consisting of Danielle Kreb, Benjamin Kahn, Randall Reeves, Robert Pitman, John Wang, Charles W. Potter and Thomas Jefferson agreed that the suspect ‘Feresa attenuata’ was more likely to be Kogia sima (dwarf sperm whale). And before anyone conjures up the image of the great sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus), I’d like to say that, No, this is not the small version of that sperm whale. They are two different species altogether, although they do belong to the superfamily of Physeteroidea.

Update 24 Feb 2013:

Click this to read about morphological differences between Kogia sima and Feresa attenuata, just in case you find one of the two stranded on your beach.


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