PICS: Stranded whale 'hugs' rescue boat after being freed from nets

2016-08-29 11:46
A SAWDN member works to help free a whale stuck in netting in False Bay. (NSRI, Facebook)

A SAWDN member works to help free a whale stuck in netting in False Bay. (NSRI, Facebook)

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Cape Town - Coast guard staff have described how a humpback whale freed from netting thanked them by "hugging" the side of their boat, and then followed them for twenty minutes.

Volunteers from the South African Whale Disentanglement Network (SAWDN) were called out after a report that a whale was entangled in netting off the coast of Cape Point at around 09:30 on Sunday morning.

Two NSRI rescue craft found a 9m Humpback whale in the vicinity of Rocky Banks in False Bay trapped between two floatation buoys and two trawling lines.

The two teams got down to assisting the mammal, with one of the rescue boats acting as a distraction in front of the whale, while the second began cutting the ropes that entangled it from behind.

After a 5-hour operation, just before 16:00, the team's efforts paid off.

“Once all rope and the floatation buoy were removed, in a most incredible reaction from the animal, the whale swam right up alongside the sea rescue craft, almost hugging the rescue boat,” spokesperson Craig Lambinon said on Sunday.

“He gently placed his head on the gunnel of the sea rescue craft.”

The whale remained there for almost 20 minutes, seemingly staring at his rescuers, Lambinon said.

“All involved described a surreal and emotional moment shared between the SAWDN volunteer team and this beautiful animal," he added.

“The whale then swam off."

Mammal emotions

Dr Simon Elwen, a Fellow at the University of Pretoria's Mammal Research Institute, said it was not uncommon for whales and dolphins to show emotions in certain circumstances.

"As any pet owner knows, animals definitely have emotions at some level - just think of the difference in how your dog reacts when you arrive home versus when you are packing a suitcase," Elwen said.

"Emotions or emotional-type responses have been regularly recorded in dolphins and occasionally in whales, most notably mourning behaviour by mothers with dead calves. They have been seen holding the dead calf at the surface for hours.

"I think it's perfectly possible that the whale recognised that the people involved were assisting it and paused to check them out."

A humpack whale "hugs" a rescue craft after being freed from netting in False Bay off Cape Point. (NSRI via SAWDN, Facebook)

The SAWDN volunteer rescue teams involved in the rescue of a humpback whale off the coast of Cape Point. (NSRI via SAWDN, Facebook)

Read more on:    nsri  |  cape town  |  maritime  |  marine life  |  good news

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