Helping Stranded Cetaceans

Cabo Verde

Of the 10 islands that make up the archipelago of Cabo Verde, Boa Vista experiences the highest number of cetacean stranding events. Multiple species have been found beached around the island, including Short-finned Pilot whales, Atlantic Spotted dolphins, Cuvier’s Beaked whales and, in the most recent event in September 2023, two Pygmy killer whales. Our local partner NGO on the island of Boa Vista is BIOS.CV and they are doing fantastic work to conserve the island’s biodiversity. Following consultations with their Board of Directors, we have developed a new initiative to support the BIOS.CV team, and their dedicated community volunteers, in order to improve the chances of survival for some of the cetaceans stranding on the island’s beaches.

The causes of these stranding events are yet to be fully understood, though it is generally believed that injury, sickness, old age and navigational error are contributing factors. Some scientists believe that loud man-made underwater noises, like sonar signals and underwater mining, are contributing to the growing number of these events. The low and mid-frequency active sonar that the military uses to detect submarines can be deadly for some species, causing hemorrhaging and resulting in animals beaching themselves to escape the sound. Mass beachings of beaked whales have been found to occur almost exclusively alongside sonar testing.

Our collaboration with BIOS.CV means that we will be able to host the UK cetacean welfare charity British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) in Boa Vista in 2024 to deliver their highly regarded Marine Mammal Medic training course to key community stakeholders. The course provides additional knowledge of whale & dolphin biology, first aid techniques, health assessment skills, decision making guidance and the use of specialist equipment to ensure a more successful response to stranding events when they occur. Afterwards, the BIOS.CV team and community members will be better equipped to respond to a callout and act on behalf of that animal’s best welfare interests.

We believe that each of our research and conservation projects must centre around our commitment to capacity building and we are inviting representatives from our two other Cabo Verde partner NGOs to travel to Boa Vista for the Marine Mammal Medic training. Fundação Maio Biodiversidade operates on Maio island and Associação Projeto Biodiversidade on Sal island. All three of our Cabo Verde partner organisations are working effectively to conserve Marine turtles and Seabirds, with each of them able to offer rewarding experiences via international volunteer placements on their various conservation programmes.