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Rarely seen Risso´s dolphin saved in Lüderitz

Avatar of inke inke - 30. March 2017 - Environment

On Tuesday this week (28th March 2017), just after lunch, Dr Jean Paul Roux - Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources’ marine biologist - was informed that a stranded dolphin had been spotted in Lüderitz harbour. Dr Roux was surprised to find a Risso´s dolphin (Grampus griseus) stranded in the shallow water. Risso’s is a species which is very rare to Namibian waters. In his 31 years as a researcher at the Ministry of Fisheries Dr Roux has only once seen some Risso´s dolphins off the Namibian coast in deep water and has only twice received reports of sightings from skippers. These large dolphins are very seldom seen on the western coast of Africa but occur worldwide in all deep water close to land.

With the help of Quintin September, Roux examined and measured the three-metre-long marine mammal and tried to get it into deeper water. Every time the dolphin was afloat it stranded itself again. “I don´t think the animal was sick, it appeared healthy and strong but always turned back to the beach. We do not know why dolphins and whales often turn back and beach themselves when humans try to help them,” the researcher said. 

When all efforts to push the animal to safety in deep water failed, Oliver and Heiko Metzger came to the rescue with their small motorboat. The large dolphin – the largest marine mammal in this family – was manoeuvred into a type of stretcher, held on one side of the boat and slowly taken to the middle of the harbour. After a short while the dolphin freed himself and swam back to shore to beach itself at a different spot. It was only on the third attempt at around 17.30 yesterday that the marine mammal headed into deeper water. At that time some Heaviside’s dolphins were in the bay. The researcher and his helpers are visiting the different beaches and lagoons around the harbour town to make sure that the Risso´s dolphin has made it out into the open water.

In the past Dr Jean Paul Roux, with the help of numerous volunteers, has saved a number of dolphins and whales around Lüderitz. Some of the species were very rare, but never before has there been a Risso´s dolphin, which can reach a weight of 300 to 500 kilograms. 

Dirk Heinrich

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