Thursday, June 20, 2013

Kupang Marine Mammal Stranding Workshop and Training

The Kupang team in action, Lasiana Beach
The next marine mammal stranding training was conducted in Kupang, 4-5 June 2013, for East Nusa Tenggara. It was attended by about 25 people, slightly less than Bali participants. However, we received some important insights from the training. 

We didn’t get our HK counterparts to come to Kupang this time, hence Februanty Purnomo, Sekar Mira and myself became the full-time mentor. I am pleased to report that we conducted our first independent training successfully, despite the absence of Grant Abel, Lindsay Porter and Nimal Fernando (they still helped tho, with online comments). I am also pleased to report that Sarminto Hadi and Miasto Yudha of KKJI MMAF are now ready to be mentors for the next trainings. They know the drill already, and they know what it takes to play the game.

Please excuse the self-indulgence, but I believe Charlie's Angels here deserve one! (pix by Bowo)

I also learn a wee bit about crocodiles (!!). So, originally we chose the beach at the back of Kristal Hotel for the hands-on demo. However, the beach was dirty. Broken glasses scattered around it, and evidence of household grey water run offs was apparent in the water. We just didn’t want to risk any infection (foot, ear, etc). Hence, two days beforehand we moved the location to Lasiana Beach, about 15 min drive from Kristal Hotel. It was the perfect beach for a stranding demo: cream soft sand, gently sloping beach, and enough lontar trees for shading. We also managed to get a local boat for the boat demo. The only problem was that we didn’t want to leave watermarks inside the bus we were going to rent. Hence, we opted out the use of swimming pool and planned for directly going to the beach for hands-on demo.

Then came the workshop day where we learned that a saltwater crocodile had been taking actions on adjacent beaches a while back. Well, ‘a while back’ was in February 2013, on a beach 1.5 km from the Lasiana beach. Okay, it attacked a crab fisher, so it didn’t really help. But it was in February, okay? It was four months ago.

Okay, it's not the Killer Croc... but I'd still prefer to have my Batman with me in Kupang!

But still, it was a freaking crocodile!!! Plus, I don't have Batman with me to fend off the crocs! Naturally, some of the participants freaked out.  So, the committee checked Lasiana Beach again to make sure that the area was still safe for the hands-on demo. We asked the locals of the crocodile attack, and whether it was safe to swim in the water. All said that the beach was safe for swimming etc; they haven’t heard of crocodile attack in months (yes, crocs can sneak out, out of the blue, and attack, but still...). After much deliberation, we decided that we would still conduct the training at Lasiana Beach. However, in the likelihood that we have to abort the practice altogether due to crocodile presence, we reinstated the hotel pool demo (watermarks on the bus floor be damned!). 

Lagoon/pool scenario at Kristal Hotel
So that was what we did. We first conducted the lagoon/fringing reef scenario in the hotel pool. This phase is also important to adjust the participants to the feeling of getting wet and lifting heavy stretchers in a safe environment. Afterwards, we took the bus ride to Lasiana and resumed with single stranding scenario on the beach, boat scenario, vehicle scenario and mass stranding. In a nutshell, all went well, no one injured, and we had no croc sighting. 

We also fleshed out the triage better in Kupang (compared to Bali); we insisted that the participants who pretended to be dolphins did not disclose their situation (whether they were ‘dead’, ‘very poor’ or ‘most likely to survive’). As a result, we nailed down the group who made the least mistakes in conducting the triage. It was a good experience for the participants, for triage was really an important step in mass stranding management decision. 

Digging sand under the flippers during mass stranding scenario

I have to add that during the boat scenario (which Sarminto and I co-mentored), we were super extra vigilant of anything moving underwater. Okay, if there was a croc in the water at that time, I don’t think I’d be typing this happily. I might not have survived the attack. Thank God, thank Poseidon, thank all ocean deities, that no crocodile was sighted at all. The boat scenario went well (tho I made a mistake of forgetting to ask the participants to bring the mattress from the beach to the boat – BIG mistake!). We used a jukung (planked canoe with double outriggers), which I now think is an ideal type of boat for single rescue. A jukung allows us to tie the stretcher at the side of the boat (between the boat’s plank and outrigger), that we don’t have to lift the stretcher and the dolphins onto the boat. The water will also add buoyancy to the dolphin, hopefully to ease its stress.

Placing the 'dolphin' (in the stretcher) onto a mattress

Last bit of lessons learned: you can use the local ‘cuci motor’ or vehicle washing service to clean up your stretchers really well! Yanti came up with the idea, after realising we cannot pack the dirty stretchers back to Bali. So we found a local cuci motor, and after an hour of wet and hard work, we got our clean stretchers back!

For the Nusa Tenggara Timur network workshop, we had a slightly different framework than Bali. The National Kupang MPA Board (BKKPN Kupang) is leading the team this time. But the rest, it’s about the same: we have the media, the 1st responder and logistics, the meds, and one more thing: the research team. The folks in Kupang are very interested in seismic-related research. They said that they cannot allow oil and gas companies to destroy their whale resources. How commendable of them.

We’re not yet sure when the next training will be. We have Balikpapan (East Kalimantan) scheduled for early September, but the West Java one is still a wild card. Sekar Mira and I will travel to Serang on 26 June for half a day training on protected marine species (marine mammal stranding is allocated 3 hours). No hands-on, wet and dirty and tired, demo tho. I will surely miss it...

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