IndoCet Stranding Network: The beginning
A mass-stranding of melon-headed whales Peponocephala electra at Antsohihy in Madagascar during May/June 2008 revealed the need to build capacity for stranding response and investigation in the Western Indian Ocean region.
In order to respond to this event, scientists with expert knowledge needed to be brought in from overseas. However, responding to such events by ‘importing’ expertise also poses logistical constraints which may easier be overcome by local expertise familiar with the region and terrain.
More recently, there have been increased concerns about the potential impacts from anthropogenic activities in the region, such as increased shipping and offshore oil and gas exploration Due to the current lack of capacity, both in terms of stranding response as well as analytical expertise, as well as baseline knowledge for many populations, potential impacts may go unnoticed.
Therefore the Indian Ocean Network for Cetacean Research (IndoCet) was formed in November 2014 at a workshop about humpback whale satellite tagging on Reunion Island. IndoCet is committed to the research of all cetacean species across the Southwest Indian Ocean.
Recent stranding events in the region have shown that the need to build capacity and establish baseline knowledge is still present. However, the joint examination of a stranded pygmy sperm whale (Kogia breviceps) and a sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus) in Kenya in 2018 carried out by local experts in collaboration with experts in South Africa and Italy via WhatsApp have shown the value for joint efforts to overcome situations where there may be a lack of local expertise.
At the last IndoCet meeting in Reunion in July 2019, the value of coordinating stranding response within IndoCet and the Indian Ocean region was discussed and a stranding coordinator was identified to provide assistance and support with stranding response, level-A data and sample collection, and training throughout the region.