Keep on the lookout for an Elephant on the beach!

April 10, 2012 by dyertrust

The Dyer Island Conservation Trust (They are a deep diving seal (upwards of 1500m!) and eat a variety of food including eels, squid, some sharks, and fish. Elephant seals haul out often to warm up before returning to the sea, and this is the most probably explanation for his behaviour and appearance as many onlookers have informed us that he looked pink once out of the water. As to how the seal has ended up on the South African coast and not in the sub-Antarctic waters is a mystery, but nevertheless is an incredibly rare sighting.

It is highly possible he will haul out on a beach again soon. If you see or have seen this seal, please contact the Dyer Island Conservation Trust 24/7 at 082-907-5607 or On Thursday the 12th of April, the vessel OCEARCH began the second leg of their white shark research expedition in the area of Gansbaai. Over the course of two days the team managed to successfully attract in and satellite tag 8 individual great white sharks in the area ranging in size from 2.5m to over 4.55m total length.

The Dyer Island Conservation Trust’s marine biologists Oliver Jewell and Alison Towner went on board the vessel. “I have to say I am thoroughly impressed with the whole operation of the OCEARCH crew,” says Jewell. “The two days I’ve spent onboard have been two of the best of my career and the way in which the sharks were handled was world class. The sharks were efficiently brought aboard the platform and the tagging and releasing process took an average of 12 minutes. All the sharks swam away healthily and one even circled the boat a couple of times before moving off on her way. It’s so important that this area was sampled and we’ve already learnt so much; the sharks were bigger than we thought and we now know we have sexually mature males in the area. The satellite tags from the larger sharks will transmit for up to 5 years and for the first time we will know where these sharks go when they leave our coastline, discover new foraging areas and possibly even, where they are mating and pupping. Furthermore we’ve collected blood, genetic, stable isotope, parasite and bacterial samples which are going to researchers across the country on what really is a nationwide study.”

There had been some concern over difficulties working in an area in which eight operators are running cage diving expeditions, however good communication between those onboard OCEARCH and the commercial operators ensured things ran smoothly with sharks being sampled at Dyer Island during the morning and then the more active inshore areas in the afternoon once cage diving trips were finished. There was speculation as to how much bait and chum OCEARCH had on board and we can confirm they used only sardine and tuna, approximately 35kg a day.

Wilfred Chivell, chairman of the Dyer Island Conservation Trust (DICT) The AMMC will be co-hosted by the University of Pretoria’s Mammal Research Institute and the Dyer Island Conservation Trust . It will be structured as part workshop, part conference with all meals provided communally as part of the event in order to maximise opportunities for networking.

Accommodation will be shared with your fellow delegates in holiday homes close to the venue.

Programme outline (21-25 May 2012):

21st: 16h0019h00 registration
19h30 icebreaker function

22nd 24th:Morning presentations; Afternoon workshops and meetings

24th: Closing dinner and music evening

25th: Farewell breakfast; any final meetings


The Great White House, Kleinbaai, Western Cape, South Africa

This picturesque fishing village outside Gansbaai, lies roughly 300km south east of Cape Town at the beginning of the Cape’s Garden Route. The area is famous for its resident population of great white sharks and is also home to southern right whales, African penguins and Cape fur seals.

This locality will provide attendees with an isolated, quiet environment in which meals, accommodation and scientific needs can all be accommodated under one organisational umbrella, whilst keeping costs to a minimum.

Kleinbaai is approximately 3 hours drive from the Cape Town city centre and International Airport. Shuttle services from Cape Town to Kleinbaai will be available at extra cost to those without their own transport. We encourage the Cape Town locals to provide and share transport if at all possible.

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Early registration (closes 31 March)R2 300
Standard registration (closes 30 April) – R2 800
Late registration (closes 10 May) – R3 500
On site registrationR4 000
Accommodation & evening meals for your spouse/partner – R1 500

Price includes:
Accommodation (4 nights), all meals and meeting costs

Price excludes:
Transport from Cape Town city or international airport
Lunch and dinner beverages (cash bar available)

In July, Professor Susan Dippenaar, a parasite expert from the University of Limpopo, paid Dyer Island Conservation Trust another visit here in Kleinbaai. She is a world-leading expert on a group of copepod syphonostomatoids for which elasmobranchs (sharks and rays) act as hosts.

A lab was set-up on site for Prof Dippenaar and her two Masters students and they quickly got to work dissecting specimens of small, endemic sharks, the puffadder shy shark and pyjama catshark as well as soup fin and cow sharks. These sharks are still commercially harvested in the area so it is important for us to learn as much as possible from each animal. The whole body of each shark is scrutinized paying particular attention to gills and noses which were removed and then we watched their painstaking work as they searched for parasites, literally with a fine-toothed comb. The interns and volunteers also had the chance to dissect the rest of the sharks bodies and discovered that two individuals were carrying mature eggs, better known as mermaids purses. These are now in an aquarium, still healthy and in the process of development.

Prof Dippenaar also took custody of a large batch of parasites which were sampled from great white sharks during the OCEARCH Expedition which visited South Africa in March and April. Needless to say, looking at these creatures under the microscope raised images of science-fiction horror movies.

The staff and students at DICT were then treated to some fascinating, if not scientifically dense, talks from the Masters students. The visit was certainly an eye-opener on the lives of these tiny organisms, and the specialised and delicate work it takes to learn more about them.