November 14, 2018

The Dyer Island Conservation Trust is extremely grateful to Fujifilm for sponsoring a brand new camera! The X-T100 was received by Alison Towner and Wilfred Chivell of the Dyer Island Conservation Trust on Tuesday the 6th of November in Tygerberg, Cape Town. Fujifilm expert Hein Hough handed the camera over, complete with 15-45 mm and 50-230 mm lenses.

Attractive features about this camera are its ability to pair via bluetooth with a smartphone allowing instant viewing of photos. Its compact lightweight design makes it perfect for going out into nature, and the photo quality is excellent. The X-T100 also has a unique LCD design that allows it to both tilt and flip out to the side but not rotate.

“Funding for scientific resources is very thin in South Africa so we are extremely grateful for this sponsorship and look forward to using the X-T100, especially at sea for capturing identification photos of our marine life”, says Alison Towner

Thanks are extended to Gillie Hine from FujiFilm South Africa for arranging this sponsorship.

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November 08, 2018

Duncan Butchart is a naturalist, illustrator and photographer. He is the author and editor of numerous articles and books on wildlife, including Wildlife of South Africa (Struik Nature). Duncan has travelled the globe drawing inspiration from nature. Duncan is a specialist in ecotourism communication and created the beautiful seabird pamphlet for pelagic birding cruises with the Trust’s eco-tourism partners Marine Dynamics / Dyer Island Cruises.

As a dear friend of the Trust, he completed this arty image of Trust founder and Marine Dynamics CEO Wilfred Chivell and the marine animals he loves so dearly. Wilfred started the term, the Marine Big 5 depicting the whales, dolphins, sharks, seals and penguins of the Dyer Island ecosystem. Using the medium of digital painting, Duncan captured all this perfectly well and included seabirds of course. Wilfred was grateful and surprised with this personal image. Duncan sent the following message: “It’s a present for you Wilfred - in admiration of everything you do for marine conservation.”

You can see more of Duncan’s work on his site: Never A Gull Moment

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November 06, 2018

Judith Scott presented a Marine Evening on her lifelong passion for whales, travel and photography. This whale enthusiast has been working for Dyer Island Cruises for the past three whale seasons as a guide on the Marine Big 5 tours. She first started working with whales eighteen years ago after falling in love with them at the age of seven.

Judith has worked on whale watching boats in many places and presented us with information on the various species that can be seen in different parts of the world. She also told us about her work on The Voyage of the Odyssey, a five year global voyage that sailed around the world studying pollution levels building up in sperm whales. Judith has developed a passion for photography through her work and showed us many of her images captured while whale watching off every continent. To view more of her images captured on Marine Big 5 tours, visit Dyer Island Cruises’ DAILY BLOG. These blogs capture the best sightings in the Dyer Island ecosystem throughout the year.

She currently works here in South Africa until December before travelling to Iceland and Mexico to continue working with a variety of species of whales and dolphins. Judith’s passion for whales is absolutely contagious and she is a stellar marine wildlife ambassador.

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October 10, 2018

The Dyer Island Conservation Trust Environmental Education Programme, known as DEEP, works with dedicated learners from Masakhane Primary school. The programme started in 2016 and runs for three years, with a new intake of 12 students each year. The long-term approach enables effective monitoring and evaluation of their progress and the impact that environmental education can have on young kids.

At the end of each year, learners go on an educational camp. This year learners from the second and third year attended an educational camp at Wortelgat in Stanford, where they spent the weekend learning about respect, teamwork and trust. The weekend included a fun-filled day of activities on Saturday - Viking games, nature walks, environmental quizzes, a trust walk, volleyball, stumbling blocks, spider webs and water activities. The learners had water activities on the Stanford river where a fun Mr & Mrs Wortelgat was selected.

Educator Pineky Ngewu said of the camp, “My three-year journey with the DEEP Blue ambassadors has taught me that we should focus on the personal development of our younger generation. These young people are our future leaders, decision makers and legislators, and they can have a profound impact on their community. Watching them grow in self-confidence and improved language skills is very rewarding. This camp was a lifetime experience for them.”

We would like to thank our sponsors of the camp - Mike Gibbs, Marine Dynamics and Dyer Island Cruises.

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October 08, 2018

This fishing line entangled African penguin was spotted by the skipper of Dreamcatcher, the Dyer Island Cruises boat, just off Kleinbaai on the 17th September 2018. The penguin was heavily entangled with line tightly wound through the beak, around the neck, flippers and feet preventing the bird from swimming or diving. The penguin was exhausted and drowning was imminent.

The team from Dyer Island Conservation Trust immediately launched Happy Feet, a smaller rubber duck that allows them to operate in shallow water. The penguin was rescued and rushed to the African Penguin and Seabird Sanctuary. The APSS team together with Dr Marc Walton commenced with "plastic surgery" immediately.

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October 03, 2018

The Dyer Island Conservation Trust has been a participant of the educational tent at the Hermanus Whale Festival since 2009.

This platform provides an opportunity to reach the 100 000 or more people that visit the annual festival. The team works hard to educate the public on the marine species of the area especially the Marine Big 5 - whales, sharks, penguins, dolphins and seals. The Hermanus Whale Festival is in its 27th year and the real stars of the show are the southern right whales that visit the sheltered bay to mate and calve providing some wonderful viewing opportunities from land. This year visitors were able to make an ocean pledge and surf the recycled plastic wave as DICT together with their corporate sponsor, Volkswagen SA, are ‘riding the wave together for a cleaner ocean’.

Alison Towner is the senior shark biologist at the Dyer Island Conservation Trust and gave a talk on how critical sharks are to the ecosystem. Special thanks to Shane Sauvage of LaPentola restaurant who closed his restaurant for the time of his talk and brought all his staff to listen. Xolani Lawo, senior bird rehabilitator at the African Penguin and Seabird Sanctuary, a project of the Dyer Island Conservation Trust, spoke on the plight of the African penguin and shared some rehabilitation moments. The Trust’s presence at the festival was sponsored by eco-tourism partner, Marine Dynamics / Dyer Island Cruises, who conduct shark cage diving and whale watching/eco tours around the Dyer Island ecosystem.

“We believe education is imperative if we are to help protect our marine ecosystem,” says Wilfred Chivell, CEO of Marine Dynamics. “The Hermanus Whale Festival helps us reach many people, and for some, this is the first time they are being introduced to the marine species we are privileged to work with. We congratulate the organisers on a fantastic festival this year, and well done to CapeNature on their campaign addressing trash. The boxes made a real difference to the cleanliness of the festival, and the whales were incredible this year. It was wonderful to see everyone fascinated by the whales and that is what this festival is truly about.”

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September 15, 2018

The Marine Dynamics / Dyer Island Conservation Trust (DICT,) together with the Overstrand Municipality partnered for International Coastal Clean Up day, doing the 1,5km stretch of rocky coastline from the Gansbaai Caravan Park towards the tidal pool. International Coastal Clean Up Day is a global movement with all trash recorded going into the South African database with PlasticsSA and the global database held by Ocean Conservancy. Various members of the public joined the clean-up, as did the DICT’s Environmental Education Programme (DEEP) accompanied by a few of their parents. Other groups included Laerskool Gansbaai, Gansbaai Primer, Gansbaai Academia, Grootbos, and International Marine Volunteers. In total there were 58 children and 20 adults. The Development and Planning division of the Department of Environmental Affairs kindly donated goodie bags for the DEEP children.

At the end of the clean-up there were 40 bags weighing 100,25 Kg’s. Top finds: Glass pieces 736 / Plastic pieces 517 / Straws/Sticks 314 /Cigarette butts 306. Strangest items found: Candles, Batteries, Shoe hangers, Umbrella. Pinkey Ngewu of the Trust had this to say, “Every person, every action, every bucket full of plastic removed from the beach can make the ocean a little bit healthier. Let’s love the ocean and refuse unnecessary plastic, one of the top known ocean pollutants.”

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September 06, 2018

Arbor Day is an environmental awareness day in which individuals and groups are encouraged to plant trees. Though usually observed in the spring, the date varies, depending on climate and suitable planting season. South Africa first celebrated this event in 1983 and it is now celebrated for a week in September. The event captured the imagination of people who recognised the need for raising awareness of the value of trees in our society. As sources of building material, food, medicine, and simple scenic beauty, trees play a vital role in the health and well-being of our communities. The Dyer Island Conservation Trust’s Environmental Education Programme known as DEEP in partnership with Overstrand Municipality, Marine Dynamics and International Marine Volunteers participated in community "greening" event by planting trees (Wild olive and Cape ash) at the local high school, Gansbaai Academia, to improve the health and beauty of the school environment and create a green future for South Africa.

A medium-sized, evergreen tree, the wild olive (Olea europaea) is found throughout Africa, Arabia, India and China. Its sweetly scented flowers are creamy-white and appear from Spring through to Summer, followed by the small, deep purply-black fruit which when ripe are enjoyed by a host of birds and other animals.  The Wild olive tree is protected in South Africa. The Cape ash (Ekebergia capensis) is a large attractive evergreen tree and found in South Africa, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Like the Wild olive, its fruit is enjoyed by birds and mammals. Both trees will provide shade and protection from the wind.

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Humpback Whale Stranding

August 17, 2018 Meredith Thornton: Research Coordinator, Dyer Island Conservation Trust

Earlier this week the Dyer Island Conservation Trust received a call about a whale on the rocks at Skulpiesbaai, near Stanford’s Cove. Upon arriving on site our Research Coordinator, Meredith Thornton, confirmed that the whale was freshly dead, and either died at sea within the last 24 hours, or came ashore alive overnight. The team then proceeded to collect a full suite of photographs, along with numerous standardised scientific measurements. The whale was an 8.3m juvenile female humpback whale and no cause of death was apparent.

After measurements were complete, skin and blubber samples were collected, along with sub-samples of the numerous barnacles and cyamids that live on the surface of the whale. These little free-riding animals are both crustaceans. The cyamids eat whale skin, roaming all over the body with their sharp claws, but mostly live in folds and crevices around the eyes, genital slits and where the pectoral fins join the body. They also inhabit wounded or diseased areas and find shelter in areas where there are barnacles present. Barnacles and whales usually live in a commensal relationship, where the barnacles benefit by hitching a free ride to wherever the oceans are rich in plankton, upon which they feed, while the whale is unharmed. However, sometimes barnacles can proliferate to such an extent that the whale is negatively impacted and the relationship becomes parasitic.

The Overstrand Municipality responded with great efficiency and the carcass was cut into four pieces and removed to the dump by nightfall. Fortunately, this animal was small for a humpback whale, making it more manageable at about 8 tons. Adult humpback whales are usually 14-15m long, weighing approximately 40 tons! Humpback whale populations have recovered exceptionally well since whaling finally ended in the 1960’s.

Interns from the Marine Dynamics Academy assisted at the stranding and had the following to say about their experience:

“On August 14th, 2018, I saw my first beached humpback whale- and if I could choose a word to describe the experience, it would be bittersweet. When we first arrived to the rocky beach where the expired whale was stranded, I felt sadness that such a beautiful creature had passed away. However, I learned that it's important to separate emotion from scientific thought, since the death of the whale also contributes heavily to marine biology research and gives us an essential peek into the workings of life under the ocean surface. Having only specialized in human physiology and anatomy, I was initially disoriented while examining the humpback whale with Meredith. I learned many valuable skills, such as whale anatomy, measuring whales, taking samples of blubber and barnacles, and many miscellaneous facts. Halfway through the examination, and after asking many questions, which Meredith answered patiently, similarities between my knowledge of human biology and this new whale biology jumped out at me. With these revelations, a sense of awe dawned upon me. It's fascinating to me that life can take such diverse forms and yet still have biological similarities. Equally as captivating were the unique differences between life forms, making us all so different, yet still the same.“ [Clisha D'Souza]

“As upsetting as it is to see such a beautiful creature in this state on the rocks, the opportunity to get so close to a humpback whale from a scientific perspective was invaluable, and one I never imagined I would have here with Marine Dynamics. I was particularly surprised to find such an abundance of barnacles and lice living off the whale’s skin. This gave me a new appreciation for the unique and complex role these whales play within a greater ecosystem and enhanced my passion to work towards its conservation. Working with Meredith to take measurements and samples so soon after the whale’s passing was inspiring, as she demonstrated how the death of these beached animals, though tragic, are never in vain. Rather, every effort is made to give them a dignified legacy by contribution to science.“ [Anna Harrison]

The Dyer Island Conservation Trust is a member of the Overstrand Stranding Network – a collaborative group of organisations that ensure as much information as possible is retrieved from every stranding, live animals are refloated or euthanised if necessary and that carcasses are disposed of safely if they come ashore in a built-up area.

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August 02, 2018

Grant has a master’s degree in critical psychology and has spent 30 years in the natural world, first as a professional field guide and then as Managing Director of The Field Guides Association of Southern Africa (FGASA). He has a full national certificate in nature and culture guiding and is qualified to guide in dangerous game areas.

It is through his professional qualifications and love of the bush and more recently the marine environment, that he has developed several programmes to help us to not only reconnect with nature but also to reconnect with ourselves. If we are to survive as a species we need to learn to commune with nature rather than exploit it.

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