Watch: Beached whale shark helped back into Knysna lagoon
The National Sea Rescue Institute is cautiously optimistic that the animal may survive.
A whale shark which beached on a Knysna sandbank. Picture: Knysna-Plett Herald
A whale shark is on its way back to the sea after beaching on a sandbank in the estuary near The Point in Knysna on Saturday morning, reports the Knysna-Plett Herald.
This was confirmed by SA National Parks (SANParks) communication manager, Nandi Mgwadlamba.
The most senior ranger on site was Thobeka Dlamini who reported on Saturday afternoon that they were still trying to pull the shark to the Knysna Heads, which is its most familiar environment.
She also said there is progress reported and that the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) equipment used on site was very helpful.
The NSRI were on the scene from the morning, trying to keep the shark alive by pouring buckets of water into its mouth and pumping water through its gills, as it was not yet strong enough to swim away.
A marine expert was also called to assist.
The deputy station commander of NSRI Knysna, Declan Nurse saidthe duty crew responded to the reports of the whale shark, which appeared to be stranded on the shoreline four kilometers up inside of the Knysna Lagoon, at about 7.15pm on Saturday morning.
“On arrival on the scene the animal, appearing to be weak and in ill health, was assisted with breathing using a water pump to pump water through it’s gills and the animal appeared to gather strength,” said Nurse.
“Advice was sought from specialists and we were joined on the scene by SA National Park Rangers and Knysna Motor Strippers towing company provided towing strops which were used to attempt to return the animal to the water.
“A group of paddlers joined the efforts to try to save the Whale Shark.”
Nurse said that initially the animal appeared to swim once it was in deeper water but it was then observed that the animal was losing the will to fight. “It is strongly suspected, according to marine specialists and vets, that the cold water was what affected the animal – normally found further north in Kwa-Zulu Natal in warmer waters,” he explained.
“We then used the strops provided to tow the animal using our sea rescue craft and attempts were made to return the animal to deep sea water beyond the Heads in an effort to give the animal its best chance at survival but each time we neared the Heads, where water temperature was colder, the whale shark escaped and returned to the shallower warmer waters nearer to sand banks.”
By late afternoon on Saturday, Nurse said the whale shark was about a nautical mile from the Knysna Heads inside of the lagoon in shallower warmer waters. The animal would be monitored by SANParks rangers. He said that they were cautiously optimistic that the animal may survive.
– Caxton News Service