Posted by: The ocean update | April 25, 2015

Manzanilla heroes save stranded whale (Trinidad and Tobago)

Saturday, April 25th, 2015 (Nalinee Seelal). A 300-pound whale which got stranded on Manzanilla beach yesterday was rescued by a small group of citizens, including police officers, who heroically pulled the mammal back into the sea.

It took Michael James, manager of Zoological Society’s animal farm, four villagers and eight policemen approximately four hours and multiple times to guide the whale into the water for its safe return to the sea.  The whale, which was black in colour and about eight feet long, with a short nose was seen beached at about 11 am by four villagers who live at Rabita Avenue, Ortoire Village, Manzanilla.

James who was at his work place located a short distance away was contacted and wasted no time rushing off to the area where he saw the whale on the shoreline and four villagers struggling to place it back into the water.

James said he joined the four villagers in placing the whale back into the water but because of the amount of seaweed, and the high tides they encountered difficulties.

“Each time we got the whale into a safe distance of water, the whale was being pushed back onto the shoreline by the rough seas and it was there and then that I decided to contact the Trinidad and Tobago Coast Guard to ask for assistance, but was told that they only had vessels in the Chaguaramas area and it will take a long time for them to get to Mayaro.”

James said in frustration he also alerted fishermen of the area but they too complained that with the amount of seaweed in the water, they feared their propellers will be damaged, and shied away from assisting.

James said he remained adamant at this point to ensure that the whale survived and after several other attempts and with much determination he and the four Manzanilla villagers and the officers were successful in getting the whale back into the water while they struggled with the rough seas and the dangerous undercurrents.

Shortly after 2.50 pm yesterday the whale swam away merrily further into the sea while James and the other rescuers looked on and monitored the waters to ensure that it did not beach again.

According to James he believed that the whale may have been entangled in a net or some object because he saw a lot of white marks across the body of the whale.

He said he is of the view that the whale may have become disoriented, hence the reason for it to beach in Manzanilla. He told Newsday, “I feel great, I deal with animals, that is a part of my life, that is my calling and I am glad that I was on spot to do what I did, because when I get a call to save the life of an animal that is my first priority.

I also want to thank the young men and police officers who displayed kindness by assisting.”

James said that this was not the first time that he was involved in saving a whale and said that in the same area earlier this year another whale beached, and he and others were instrumental in guiding the whale back into the water and saved its life.

He said that he is an avid animal lover and will risk his own life anytime, any day, any hour to save the life of an animal.

Up until late yesterday, James and others remained on the shoreline of the Manzanilla beach to keep watch, but it appeared that the whale had survived and was on its way back to the deep sea.

Newsday also understands officers of the National Operations Centre (NOC) responded to the report of the whale being beached and NOC executive director Garvin Heerah despatched one of its helicopters to render any assistance. “We are coordinating with the ODPM and the EMA and volunteers on the ground to speedily return the beached whale to its natural habitat, and NOC assets that was on patrol in the south eastern sector was deployed to the area to provide situational awareness back to the NOC headquarters in Port-of-Spain,” he said.

Also yesterday head of the Eastern Division Supt Sacenarine Mahabir commended the action taken by his eight officers who made their way into the choppy waters to help rescue the whale.

He said, “It is efforts such as these which send a clear message to the public that we do have caring officers out there who will not only risk their lives to save citizens but to take it further to even save animals in distress. And this is a clear example of the police partnering with the public to do a good deed.”

He encouraged other officers, not only in his division, to do yeoman service in the interest of uplifting the image of the Police Service.

In mid-October 1999, there was a beaching of 24 whales in Manzanilla. Fourteen pilot whales were returned to the sea and ten died.


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