Strandings or beachings, occur where a marine mammal, washes up on the shoreline or beach due to sickness, injury, disorientation, or death.
It was not until 2018 we started to recognize strandings as a vital and helpful information source for marine mammal species, distribution and threats. Strandings have enabled us to identify the presence of highly elusive off shore species. WMA and KMMREC through Kenyan Marine Mammal Network reports are collecting and storing biological samples from stranded whales and dolphins along the Kenyan coast and have started to build an historical database dating back to 2004.
In the past strandings that were found on beaches were responded to by private organizations, Individuals and government institutions. Some effort was also conducted by the National Museums of Kenya in obtaining marine mammal specimens for their collection. Communication between different groups responding to strandings was poor and accounts of single strandings were not integrated into a meaningful analysis or overall picture reflecting animal stranding patterns and distribution. From 2011, Kenya Marine Mammal Network was formed and this allowed for different groups, NGO and GO’s to contribute information to start a stranding data base.
Using data collected from 2004 to 2019, the KMMN has recorded 25 reports of dolphin and whale strandings/mortalities along the Kenya coast with a sharp rise in reporting in 2020 with a average of 1 stranding per month.
In September 2018 and August 2019 necropsies with the assistance of the International Whaling Commission expert were performed on four animals from different locations; a partial necropsy of a sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus) and a full necropsy of a pygmy sperm whale (Kogia breviceps) and an Indian Ocean bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops aduncus).
Through strandings, we have also started to understand more about elusive species like the pygmy sperm whale (Kogia breviceps), and other little-known offshore species, which are rarely sighted live at sea.
Since 2019 Michael has undergone specialist training under tuition of scientists at the Sarasota Dolphin Research Centre to perform necropsy procedures. The primary aim of this program is improve the reporting network to gather more information from biopsy samples to determine the health of the marine mammal populations.
Marine mammal species reported stranded in Kenya: