© Photo: NSRI A whale shark which took up up temporary residence in the Knysna lagoon is carried to deeper water in the lagoon.
KNYSNA, CAPE TOWN – A whale shark appears to have taken up temporary residence in the Knysna lagoon in an effort to avoid the colder water on the sea side of the Knysna Heads.
National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) Knysna deputy station commander Declan Nurse said the duty crew responded aboard the sea rescue craft Jaytee IV at 7.15am on Saturday following reports from staff at the St James Hotel of a whale shark appearing to be stranded on the shoreline 4km up the Knysna Lagoon.
“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 its gills and the animal appeared to gather strength,” he said.
Advice was sought from specialists and the NSRI crew were joined on the scene by SA National Parks (SANParks) rangers. The Knysna Motor Strippers towing company provided towing strops which were used to attempt to return the animal to the water. A group of paddlers also joined the efforts to try to save the whale shark.
“Once in deeper water, initially the animal appeared to swim but on further observation the animal appeared to lose the will to fight and it is strongly suspected, according to marine specialists and vets, that the cold water was what affected the animal – normally found further north in KwaZulu-Natal in warmer waters,” Nurse said.
“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.
“The whale shark is currently about a nautical mile from the Heads inside of the lagoon in shallower warmer waters and although we are cautiously optimistic that the whale shark may survive SANParks rangers will continue to monitor the animal which remains close to their offices. NSRI thank all who assisted, SANParks rangers and the public,” Nurse said.
Whale sharks – the biggest fish in the world – are docile, non-aggressive animals that pose no danger to humans.