The Whale Shark which sought refuge in the warm waters of the Knysna Lagoon over last weekend has unfortunately since died.
Owen Govender, Senior Section Ranger for SANParks Lakes, confirmed on Monday 13th March that the shark had died. The whale shark was last seen alive in the Ashmead Channel near SANParks offices. This was on the morning of the 13th, following its ordeal in the estuary over the weekend.
Jene Conradie, Knysna Area Environmental Monitor, says that it is possible that the cold water around Knysna initially placed the juvenile whale shark in a state of shock, when temperatures dropped to 8°c. Conradie suggested that noise pollution generated by boat propellers also likely added to the animal’s stress.
The whale shark was first rescued in the estuary on the morning of Saturday 11th March, after she was beached. The NSRI, paddlers, members of the public and SANParks helped her back into the water. The animal appeared weak and ill, and was assisted in pumping water through its gills.
“On Saturday around 16:00 we got her as far as the Ashmead Channel and were hopeful she would swim out to sea, but she was seen again in the vicinity on Sunday morning heading towards Leisure Island. She completely disappeared on Sunday evening until we saw her [on Monday] morning,” said Govender.
“A cold water offshore more than likely made the whale shark come into the estuary seeking warmer water,” explained Govender. He also said that low tide was lower than usual – because of spring tide – and this might have caused the animal to beach.
Govender said that everyone from SANParks, the NSRI and the public were thanked for their efforts in trying to help save the whale shark.
Take a look here to see the shark in the lagoon:
Tissue samples have been taken from the whale shark and SANParks will take the body out of The Heads to sea for nature to take its course. Owen Govender said, “This was one of those cases where nature took its natural toll and despite all efforts by SANParks and others, nothing more could be done.”
A full explanation as given by Conradie and honorary ranger Baden Hall below: