Friday, March 29, 2013

Latest update from the national stranding network

It was approaching 9 pm, and we were still in the meeting room in Bogor

Being a developing country with one of the longest coastlines in the world, myriad human activities and about 35 species of cetaceans and one species of sirenian, Indonesia is a country with high risk of stranding events. Data from showed 102 stranding events since 2000-2012; about half of them were unidentified species. Considering Indonesia’s coastline length (over 80,000 km) this number is more likely to be an underestimation than an overestimation. However, until late 2012, Indonesia had no national stranding committee or any action plans to mitigate, reduce or manage stranding events. The stranding of 48 short-finned pilot whales (Globicephala macrorhynchus) in East Nusa Tenggara Province was a wake-up call for the government to work on the overdue stranding protocol and network. In November 2012, the Ministry of Marine and Fisheries Affairs officially formed a national committee to compose the national stranding protocol and establish the national stranding network. 

On Thursday, 21 March 2013 (after 1.5 days of long meeting in Bogor, hauled till past 9pm...), the national committee has finished the last stranding protocol meeting which produced the final draft of the protocol. The protocol will be published in April 2013 and will be distributed to all provinces in the country. At the same meeting, the committee also discussed the organizational structure of the national stranding network. The national structure will have five sections: 1) data and information; 2) science; 3) live-rescue; 4) post-mortem investigation; and 5) policy recommendations. The live-rescue section will coordinate local stranding networks around the Archipelago. 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The 3rd Southeast Asian Marine Mammal Symposium (and the importance of having a group to call your own)

Participants of the 3rd SEAMAM symposium in Langkawi (pic by Suwat Jutapruet)

I’m a cetologist, and I’m proud of what I’m doing for a living. However, I do have to say that getting funding for mainly marine mammal works is not always straightforward. Nowadays, I still have to do other works (still inside the compound of marine conservation) to stabilise my micro-finance, while also getting $$ for the cetacean works I always want to do. Often, I felt lonely and a bit desperate because of that. I’m one of Indonesia’s very few cetologists, but expanding this ‘business’ seems to be a very hard endeavour. With the dimming ‘glamour’ of species-based conservation since the last decade and the shifting towards ecosystem-based management (EBM), experts on migratory mega fauna species around the world are striving to fit their species of interest into the whole EBM scheme. Whether attaching it to Marine Protected Area, fisheries, climate change issues, etc, anything that will make the conservation of migratory mega fauna species still making sense in the EBM era.  It can work... but really, I cannot say it has been a stroll in the park. 

Most of the time, I felt like doing this all alone. Yes, I do have some friends scattered around Indonesia (in the Marine Mammal Indonesia mailing list we created in 2004), but our conversations have been up and down (which means that I didn’t do my job as the moderator properly). I do connect with them, and I do share similar dreams with them.  But I still couldn't shake off the feeling of doing this alone without any significant support from outside world.

‘Thank God’ for the 48 short finned pilot whales that stranded in Sabu in October last year. I know, it sounds awful and I don’t mean it that way. What I meant is that finally the government realised the importance of pushing forward marine mammal conservation, by way of stranding management. I started to join the national discussions on stranding protocols last December, and started to feel like I can really use my brain for the animals I love the most: the whales and the dolphins.  

Going to Subic Bay (Philippines) last month (4-9 Feb) to learn about stranding management was another refreshing change. I met many passionate stranding rescuers and veterinarians from at least seven countries (Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, Taiwan, China Mainland and HK, Malaysia and Cambodia). I had a lot of discussions about how to improve the Indonesia stranding network with my fellow Indonesian delegates (Sekar Mira, Februanty Purnomo, Efin Muttaqin, and Danielle Kreb – who is a Dutch lady, but might as well a local with her Samarinda accent!). Subsequently, I then became a part of the committee to form/organise the SE Asian stranding network.  I started to feel like I’m part of something bigger than my own fear (of not being able to be a full time cetologist). 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The importance of stretcher, mattress and necropsy for stranding cases

The Indonesia team in Subic Bay. L to R: Efin Muttaqin, myself, Yanti Purnomo, Danielle Kreb and Sekar Mira

I’ve been meaning to write a post about the lessons I received after attending a stranding symposium and workshop in the Philippines last February. However, February has been crazily busy for me (happy busy, not sad busy), so I never got to it. Some comments from Philippe Borsa on the Sabu stranding event today sent me to my working desk now (In fact, I woke up this morning with a mind to write a post about necropsy; Philippe beat me to it with his/her constructive feedback). So, here’s thanks to Philippe.

This post should be subtitled: ‘Or, why you better attend a stranding workshop before claiming you know about stranding’. Mostly, it refers to myself rather than others. For that was really what I felt when I attended the 1st Southeast Asian Stranding Network Symposium and Workshop in Subic Bay (3 hours north of Manila), Philippines from 4-9 February 2013. I felt like hiding under the table during some country presentations. Thank God for the Whale Stranding Indonesia website, otherwise I – as a delegate from Indonesia – would feel so hopeless due to the lack of success story from my country.  Actually, the WSI website was such a hit that people tend to disregard that Indonesia is still very new with this stranding business. We are still writing up our stranding protocol (looking specifically at a friend of mine who have to finish her round-robin part...), and we are still figuring out how to structure our national stranding network. But still, better late than never.

Now, the title of this post refers to the three most important things I should have realised, but did not, about stranding management (those are not the only important things, trust me). The stretcher and necropsy things I know – kinda, but never realised the full importance of the two aspects. The mattress is a new thing to me, such that I realised that I really have to understand more about the biology of cetaceans and dugongs. And I call myself a cetologist. Sigh.