Country Life Magazine article on the Strandloper Trail

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Striped dolphin necropsy result

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Baby Samango Monkey rescued from Buffalo Pass (Umtiza Forest) , East London

Yesterday afternoon Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency ranger Bulelani Dyonase contacted museum scientist Kevin Cole to report a baby male Samango (Sykes) monkey which had been separated from its mother. The incident happened on a busy section of road at the beginning of Buffalo Pass. The troop were supposedly crossing when the separation happened. Attempts to locate the troop and re-unite the young Samango with its mother proved fruitless.

Museum scientist Kevin Cole holds the baby Samango monkey rescued from Buffalo Pass

By late afternoon Kevin and Bulelani made a call to secure the young animal for foster care. Bulalani had kept the baby safe until it was collected by BCMM Senior Manager (Marine and Zoological Services) Siani Tinley. Siani did not hesitate to respond to a plea for assistance and collected the baby for overnight care.

This morning the monkey was delivered to two foster parents (both certified in animal rehabilitation) to take care of him.

This is a first museum record of a baby Samango rescue and by late afternoon and this morning Siani reported that the youngster was responding well. The Umtiza Forest Reserve (slightly inland and west of the airport) is the home to these shy, gentle monkeys.

They only occur as isolated populations in forest pockets from the Eastern Cape northwards to Mozambique and eastern Zimbabwe. We are really privileged to have Samango monkeys living in the metro. They are darker than the more common Vervet Monkey and have a distinguishing creamy white throat and belly. Males are larger (7-9 kg) than the females (4-5 kg) and a single young is normally born between August and November. They sometimes eat insects but prefer fruits, gum, leaves, flowers and seeds. This baby would only have been weaned by next year May.

They live in troops of up to 30 individuals and they are much more arboreal than the Vervet Monkey. Their day range distance can be up to 1.5 km.

Baby male Samango monkey (Cercopithecus mitis) from Umtiza Forest safely under specialist care

References: The complete book of southern African mammals compiled by Gus Mills and Lex Hes &

Field guide to mammals of southern Africa by Chris and Tilde Stuart

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Subantarctic fur seal injured by a propeller at Chintsa Bay, East London

A young male vagrant subantarctic fur seal (Arctocephalus tropicalis) had to be euthanased yesterday morning at Chintsa East after being very badly injured by what looks to be a propeller strike to the right flipper. The seal was reported alive and in reasonable health with no injuries on Saturday at Queensbury Bay. It had probably hauled out to rest at Queensbury Bay before taking to sea later in the day or overnight.

The subantarctic fur seal resting at Queensbury Bay the day before it was injured at Chintsa Bay (east of this location). Photo Supplied.

Yesterday morning at 06h44 Jarryd Kriel (Crawfords Beach Lodge) contacted museum scientist Kevin Cole to report the injured seal which was above the inter-tidal mark on the beach. He also safely secured the animal until the museum arrived. An investigation of the injury revealed a deep wound above the right flipper which had been severely detached from the main body of the animal. There had been quite a lot of blood lost prior to the investigation and the animal was clearly in pain.

Local wildlife vet Dr Roger Davies was called as it was felt the animal may have to be euthanased. Kevin Cole confirmed this with seal expert at Bayworld (PE) Dr Greg Hofmeyr who agreed (and can sanction such an action) that the animal would not survive the injury on its own.

Alex Tweedie (Safari4U Manager) was first to respond to the call to secure the safety of the injured subantarctic fur seal at Chintsa Bay in front of Crawfords Lodge

Subantarctic fur seals are not endemic to the South African coast. They breed on islands thousands of kilometres south of our shores like Tristan da Cunha, Prince Edward, Marion and Crozet islands to name a few. They form large rookeries and males are larger than females. Males are easily identified as adults by a conspicuous tuft of raised hair on the head. They mostly feed on squid and dive to depths of 208 m. They have been recorded to live to 25 years.

Before a final decision was made to euthanase the seal Dr Davies did an examination of the seal under sedation. It was further noted the right flipper had also been fractured. There was no alternative but to save the animal from further suffering and it was professionally put down. The specimen was transported to the museum freezer after a number of samples were taken such as the aqueous humor from the eye, faecal and urine for further analysis.

The lower part of the right flipper had also been cut and the bones in the flipper fractured on this young subantarctic fur seal at Chintsa Bay. Photo: Kevin Cole
Male subantarctic fur seal (Arctocephalus tropicalis) – note the distinctive tuft of hair on the forehead (only males of the species have this). Photo: Kevin Cole

Alex Tweedie (pictured above), the manager of Safari4u and her volunteers Beckie Goldup, Nesma Yousef and Estefania Caram Puentes are also thanked for being on site to assist with the injured animal.

Dr Roger Davies from Wild Coast Vet (based at Chintsa) examines the injured seal under sedation before a final decision to euthanase was made. Photo: Kevin Cole

The museum has other records of subantarctic fur seals over the years and this is only the second record since 2007 of a male of the species. Siani Tinley of the BCMM Aquarium is also thanked for offering her expertise on the matter and Crawfords Beach Lodge assisted with a quick access to the injured animal and staff to carry the euthanased specimen to the museum vehicle.

Male subantarctic fur seal being prepared at the East London Museum

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Female Risso’s dolphin stranding at Kidd’s Beach, South Africa

The 2.96 m female Risso’s dolphin which stranded at Kidd’s Beach after being reported alive at Cove Rock two days earlier

The museum was alerted on Monday 9 Sept 2019 (via the aquarium – Ms Siani Tinley) that a fisherman Juan Wessels had come across a live dolphin in the surf zone west of Cove Rock on Sunday 8 Sept 2019. A video of the dolphin indicated that the animal was in distress. With some effort he managed to get the dolphin to deeper water and it swam away.

Museum scientist Kevin Cole made a comment to Juan Wessels after viewing the video that its chances of survival were slim and that he thought it may strand within a day or two. Juan advised where he thought the animal may come out (somewhere west of the location where he had found it).

Mrs Jacky Biller of Palm Springs called to report that a dolphin had stranded west of the Kidd’s Beach Village (Tuesday 10 September 2019). Her husband Sean Biller is also thanked for securing the specimen overnight so that it would not be lost to the sea at the high tide. An investigation revealed that it was a deep water 2.96 m female Risso’s dolphin.

This is the largest dolphin not to be called a whale and anatomically has a very ‘top-heavy’ head section. Their appearance presents with a blunt head (carrying a very distinctive vertical furrow in its face) and a very erect centrally placed dorsal fin. The colour of the animal changes from birth to adulthood and most notably in adulthood it has an anchor shaped mark on the chest. As they grow older, they accumulate characteristics body scarring which was very visible on the stranded specimen. They only have teeth on the front of the lower jaw in our waters. A robust, conical tooth was collected from the animal with a diameter of 7.2 mm at the gum base.

A necropsy was undertaken on Wednesday 12 September 2019 by Kevin Cole with the kind assistance of Kidd’s Beach resident Barry Marshall. All internal organs were examined and the stomach removed for a detailed investigation.

No food or plastic was found in the latter and all organs (liver, lungs, lower intestine, ovaries and kidneys) appeared normal with the exception of the 1.653 kg heart. A hard chestnut sized lump was detected and it was removed and preserved for an investigation by Bayworld and Nelson Mandela University scientists. Other samples included blubber, skin, blood and muscle.

Kidd’s Beach resident Barry Marshall kindly assisted Kevin Cole with the necropsy on the female Risso’s dolphin

These dolphins can grow to a length of 3.41 m (males) and 3.18 m (females). They normally move in small groups (10 – 30 individuals) and occur worldwide in temperate and tropical seas. In our seas they are associated in waters of 350 – 600 m of the upper continental slope.  Their main diet consists of squid and it is presumed they feed mostly at night.

The 1.6 kg heart from the dolphin has been preserved at the museum for further studies by cetacean scientists

This is the 4th Risso’s dolphin record for the museum since 2011 with the last being at Morgan Bay (March 2019). Four mass strandings of the species have been recorded in South Africa – May 1983 (4 males and 4 females). April 1989 (10 males and 11 females), February 1990 (1 male and 6 females) and August 1991 (9 males and 2 females). There still a lot we need to learn about these cetaceans and they are listed as data deficient in the South African Red Data Book.

Reference: Whales and dolphins of the southern African subregion by Peter B. Best

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Notes on the oarfish stranding (Regalecus glesne) at Chintsa East (East London, SA)

Head section of a model of the oarfish, Regalecus glesne, on display at the East London Museum

On the 28th August 2019 a very unusual oarfish washed ashore at Chintsa East. It was reported to the museum by Geoff Philipps and was alive when first sighted and later died. Sheila Gill of Chintsa East (pictured below) responded quickly to a museum request to secure the specimen by saving it from being washed out by the tide.

Sheila Gill holds the 1.56 m oarfish which washed out at Chintsa East. Photo Kevin Cole ELM

The 1.56 m fish was identified by museum scientist Kevin Cole and is only a third record for the museum. These fish have a worldwide distribution and live in the open ocean of tropical and temperate seas. Most noticeable when alive is the brilliant silver colour of the head and body with crimson dorsal and pelvic fins. A good mount of the specimen can be seen in the Oceanic display in the marine gallery. The SA Institute of Aquatic Biodiversity (SAIAB) was contacted and a tissue sample taken before the fish was frozen.

Specimens are normally washed ashore after stormy weather. They are rarely trawled by fishing boats. The ‘oars’ (elongate pelvic fins) are not used for locomotion through the water but act as ‘tastebuds’ (chemo-receptive organs) which may be useful in selecting prey species.

The flesh is not palatable, even when cooked, as it is watery and soft.

One of the behavioral traits of the fish is that it adopts a vertical position in the water column to spot its food (planktonic crustaceans) which are normally silhouetted against the light from the surface. The oarfish is a most likely source of sea serpent myths. They are also known in ancient Japanese fishermen tales to warn of pending tsunamis when sighted close to the surface or beached. They can grow to a length of 8 m and weigh well over a 100 kg’s.

The Oceanic display in the museum marine gallery has a model of an oarfish on display

Reference: Coastal fishes of southern Africa by Phil and Elaine Heemstra

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Humpback whale stranding at Hamburg, Eastern Cape

Daily Dispatch, Monday 26 August 2019

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