May 18, 2011 by dyertrust

World-renowned shark parasitologist, Professor Susan Dippenaar of the University of Limpopo in Polokwane, spent two weeks withMarine Dynamicsand the Dyer Island Conservation Trust in Kleinbaai. Hennie Otto (BSc Candidate-University of South Africa), skipper of Marine Dynamics boat, Slashfin, is studying the parasite species and their effects on the great white sharks in the area. All research work that the Trust does is aimed at better understanding our marine species so that they can be better managed therefore ensuring their conservation.

Through this study, Hennie aims to answer the following questions:

  • Does parasite load affect shark behaviour or influence general health e.g. compromising the sharks immune system and allowing viral and fungal infections to establish themselves
  • Do sharks utilise estuarine areas as a fresh water outflow to rid themselves of parasites
  • What percentage of sharks carry parasites
  • Whether long term monitoring of parasitic load on great white sharks can be used as an indicator of environmental health


More information can be found at


The extent of Susans work included the collection of parasites from several shark species commercially harvested in the area. The visit was a huge success with many parasites collected – these samples will be scrutinised for identification back in the University laboratory hopefully identifying some that are new to science.


The Trust also works closely with the University of Pretoria (Mammal Research Institute); the University of Cape Town (Animal Demography Unit); University of North West as well as supporting the work of International Universities such as University of Bristol.