Two cetacean strandings this past weekend – striped dolphin at Chintsa bay and a humpback whale at Cebe (Wild Coast)

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Warm winter weather – ideal for hiking the Strandloper Trail

The past number of weeks have produced some fine sunny and sometimes hot weather (berg winds). May, June and July are great months to get out along the coast north of East London and to do the 4 night, 5 day Strandloper Hiking Trail.

Folk that have passed through recently have had a magic experience along some of South Africa’s best coastline.

The East London Museum has been involved with the Strandloper Trail since its inception in 1996. Museum scientist Kevin Cole has been Chairperson of the Strandloper Ecotourism Board for the past 21 years. Other long standing members still active on the Board are Sean Price (founder member), Dave Marais (project Director), Velile Ndlumbini and Janna Cooper.

Bryan and Erica Church are also long serving, hard working management staff (Trail Manager and Reservations Manager respectively) having joined the trail in 1998. Senior coastal ranger John Pakamile and coastal ranger Johnson Mila have also made a great contribution to the success of this coastal ecotourism experience.

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The Nahoon Estuary Nature Reserve delights as usual ….

This gem of a reserve accessible from Beacon Bay provided an avifaunal and mammal treat this past weekend. The warm winter weather (hot in fact, around 27 C) had lots of birds and at least 7 individual blue duiker drink at the water fountain in the reserve.

The museum is working with Buffalo City Metro Municipality to have the reserve extended and the additional portions proclaimed a provincial reserve. A meeting with officials was held last week to discuss this. The Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency will be assisting in the process.

From top left: Tambourine dove (male), Cape white eye and a yellow weaver, olive thrush, helmeted guineafowl and a blue duiker (male)
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A note of thanks from young Seth

Last week I had the privilege of interacting with young 7 year old Seth at the museum. His interest in the natural world was encouraging and I was taken by his enthusiasm during our gallery tour. As much as a spark may have been ignited in him he kept my enthusiasm fired up as well and it was a treat to have him visit.

I also appreciated the kind note received from his grandmother Mrs Carol Flint who arranged the visit.

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Live male humpback stranding 29 June 2019

On the 20 May 2019 a live 9.5 m female humpback whale beached near Hickmans River (East London). The animal died overnight and this second report of a humpback was approximately 5 km’s east of this standing this past weekend. An attempt was made by museum scientist Kevin Cole and volunteers to rescue the Hickman’s humpback whale but sadly to no avail. The whale illustrated below had been moved by high seas over the rock line landwards when still alive and there was no way of considering a rescue. The stranding took place on the West Bank of East London, below and slightly west of the Hood Point Lighthouse.

Photo credit: Alan Eason
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A budding scientist Akhanani dons his white coat

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Hawksbill turtle record, Gonubie (East London) SA

A Hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) was reported yesterday having washed up at Gonubie. It was retrieved today by the museum and a partial necropsy undertaken to determine whether there was any ingestion of marine debris – the result was negative. This critically endangered species occasionally visits our seas (east coast) but never breeds along our coast. The bill is strongly hooked (hence the name ‘hawksbill’) and the plates on the upper surface are imbricated (arranged so that they overlap like roof tiles) giving it the species name imbricata.

There has been an 80% decline in Hawksbill numbers over the past century. Only about 8 000 females worldwide nest every 2-3 years (about a 1 000 nesting annually) producing between 60-200 eggs. These turtles are particularly threatened by the wildlife trade as they are collected from the tropics for their colourful yellow and brown carapace plates that are used to make tortoiseshell items (‘bekko’” or ‘carey’) for ornaments and jewellery.

They can grow to 90 cm in length and the specimen pictured measured 40 cm with a width of 33 cm. The total length of the head measured 8 cm. Turtles have been around for more than 100 million years and sadly this record comes less than a week after World Turtle Day (May 23rd).

Gerhard Pretorius is thanked for reporting this find and Dean Brown is thanked for securing the specimen for the museum.

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