The discovery by anglers last Friday of a dead Humpback dolphin at the ‘Shaky Rocks’ section of Naval Island in Richards Bay presented a dilemma in terms of disposing of the rotting carcass, Zululand Observer reports.
Judging by the state of decomposition it had possibly died and washed up onto the rocks a day or two before, after which it had been subjected to scorching summer heat.
‘The cause of death of the adult creature was not evident and we could see no visible signs of injury,’ said local Humpback dolphin devotee Dave Savides, who for the past years has been supporting marine biologist dolphin research efforts.
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‘In the past, we would have contacted Frans Mthembu of Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife and he would have promptly arrived, taken various measurements of the creature to forward to the researchers and then arranged disposal of the carcass.
Often perishing after being caught in shark nets, the cause of death of this mature Humpback dolphin that washed up on Naval Island last week could not be determined
PHOTO: Dave Savides
‘Had it been discovered sooner after death, it could have been frozen and stored for investigation into the cause of death and gleaning of other useful information from its contents.
‘However, with Ezemvelo now off the scene there is a big void in many areas. We had nobody to approach for assistance and all the while, the decomposition and stench were affecting beachgoers and picnickers on the island,’ he said on Tuesday.
‘It is a health and environmental hazard and there is also the danger the carcass may drift back off the rocks and into the water, and attract sharks.
‘This is just one instance of the negative effects the loss of Ezemvelo has been to the local environmental community – the chief of which is the unceasing plundering of fish resources by illegal gill netters.
‘It is possible their nets have also snared our endangered dolphins. Certainly they are decimating the food chain of many species.’
Zululand Observer steps in with CPF
In the absence of an active marine conservation authority in the region, the burden then fell on the public to dispose of the carcass.
Spearheaded by the Zululand Observer’s Editor-in-Chief Dave Savides, a team of helpful citizens, which included Meerensee CPF’s Dave and Josh Pretorius, Freddie Horn Jnr, Coenie Vermaak and Tony Paulo, spent some time yesterday (Wednesday) morning gathering wood to burn the carcass.
This after consultations between City of uMhlathuze environmentalist Sharin Govender and Durban-based Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife Marine Biologist Jennifer Olbers led to Govender authorising the burning.
‘Aside from the obvious health concerns from a decaying dolphin being left to rot on a beach where children play, had the spring tides washed the carcass back into the water, sharks would have been attracted to the decaying meat,’ said Savides.
Once sufficient firewood was gathered, the team poured fuel over the carcass and wood, and the cremation began.
As opposed to removing the carcass to a landfill site or burying it on the beach where it would be vulnerable to scavengers, this burning method of disposing of it was pioneered by Savides in Richards Bay in 2016 when a Humpback whale carcass last year washed ashore north of Alkantstrand.
Meanwhile, Govender said she was looking into compiling an official protocol for dealing with such marine strandings.
‘Besides the obvious reasons for needing to dispose of the carcass, I feel that dolphins are such beautiful creatures that deserve dignity in death rather than being left to rot in full view of holidaymakers and residents,’ said Savides.
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