Notable marine ecologist to talk on KZN’s marine stranded animals at Crocworld Conservation Centre

Plastic pollution is one of the biggest threats to the natural world and the detrimental effects are being felt by marine animals. One of the consequences of this pollution is the tragic stranding of marine life on the KwaZulu-Natal shores, a topic that will be addressed by marine ecologist, Dr Jennifer Olbers, at the Crocworld Conservation Centre monthly talk on Saturday, 14 September.

“There is no doubt that plastic pollution is one of the biggest environmental threats facing the planet right now,” said Martin Rodrigues, Manager of Crocworld Conservation Centre. “This is most evident in our oceans where marine life is dying at an unprecedented rate as a result of entanglements or ingestion of vast amounts of plastic. In addition to curbing our plastic use, it’s important we know about the work being done to address stranded marine life as well as what must be done in such circumstances. We are very excited to welcome Dr Jennifer Olbers, a Marine Ecologist with Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, Scientific Services, to talk on ‘Marine Stranded Animals in KZN’.”

Jennifer has been in her position with Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife for more than a decade, during which time she has been involved in marine and coastal research, and monitoring programmes with a focus on rocky shores, sandy beaches, reef fish and nesting turtles. She is the co-ordinator of the KZN Marine Animal Stranding Network, an organisation which manages and records all stranded animals. The information obtained is used to detect trends over time and provide insights into patterns of marine stranded animals along the KwaZulu-Natal coastline. Her passion lies in biodiversity, invertebrate taxonomy and addressing wildlife crime.

Her talk at Crocworld Conservation Centre will outline the history of strandings along KwaZulu-Natal, as well as how the animals are managed and why this information is so important: “I will also give some advice on how members of the public can assist if they find an animal in difficulty on the beach,” explained Jennifer.

She will touch on the existing proposal to begin offshore oil and gas exploration off Port Shepstone by Sasol and ENI. If it proceeds, this is expected to have ‘a severe effect on the marine animals, especially the mammals like dolphins and whales’.

Facts about marine strandings

–  Marine debris and plastic appear to be an increasing problem in the cause of animal strandings, with 62% of all birds being recorded as having plastic in their gut contents, globally.

–  In KwaZulu-Natal, between 8 and 14% of stranded birds are affected by marine debris.

–  Reporting dead, stranded animals on the beach is equally important as reporting live animals in distress, as this gives us an idea of how humans are directly and indirectly contributing to the death of these animals.

“So many people frequent the beaches but often people do not know how to assist an animal in distress,” explained Jennifer. “In so many cases, they unintentionally harm or kill the animal. In addition, the laws have changed substantially in the last 20 years and it’s important for people to know what they can and cannot do within the confines of the law.”

What to do if you find a marine stranded animal?

In every situation the relevant authorities should be contacted immediately. The authorities require accurate information about the animal for a successful rescue to take place. As a member of the public, you can assist by giving the following information over the phone:

1. Exact location and directions to the location if it is a remote area.

2. Photos. A picture can give the authorities vital information about the animals’ health, their location and their body language.

3. Injuries to the animal.

4. Behaviour and condition of animal (alive, dead, injured).

5. The time, date and any other relevant information of when the animal was first found.

To learn more about the research into marine stranded animals, book your place at Crocworld Conservation Centre. Audiences will also be treated to an Early Bird Breakfast with coffee or tea – inclusive of the price of the talk – which will be supplied by the onsite restaurant, Fish Eagle Café. The cost of the tickets is R50 per person. For more information or to make a booking, contact Morne van Zyl at the Fish Eagle Café on 083 658 7073 or email mvanzyl@cbl.co.za. Alternatively, contact Martin Rodrigues on 078 484 1859 or Crocworld Conservation Centre on 039 976 1103.