Marine Strandings

Website Headers - Marine Strandings

When you find an injured animal or one in distress, whether it be a marine or terrestrial species, the first thing to do would be to contact your nearest Nature Authority. It is important to remember that these animals are wild, and unpredictable, and now in a stressful situation. Keep calm and as quiet as possible when dealing with them.

Details to note when reporting a stranded/injured animal (this will help to determine what sort of equipment to bring and who to contact for assistance):

  • Location (as precise as possible)
  • Species (or detailed description of the animal)
  • Status of animal (alive or dead)
  • Any visible injuries
  • Situation circumstances (is it on a crowded beach, or a difficult to access position)
  • Take a photo, if you can, to send to the relevant organisation

The most efficient way to determine which organisation to contact, is through the Seafari App (available on both Play Store and App Store). Seafari allows you to submit a report through the app, as well as providing you with a list of emergency contacts depending on your location.

Alternatively, you can contact the South African National Stranding Network:

082 746 5579

Emergency Contact Details (South Africa)

African Penguin and Seabird Sanctuary (APSS):

  • 082 907 5607
  • Penguins and seabirds
  • Geelbek Street, Van Dyks Bay, 7220
  • Email
  • Website

Bayworld Oceanarium:

  • 041 584 0650
  • Stranding Hotline: 071 724 2122
  • All marine animals
  • 23 Beach Road, Humewood, Port Elizabeth, 6013
  • Email
  • Website


Cape of Good Hope SPCA Wildlife Unit:

  • 021 700 4158/4159
  • After hours/weekends: 083 326 1604
  • All marine animals
  • 1st Avenue & First Road, Grassy Park, Cape Town, 8000
  • Email
  • Website

Hout Bay Seal Rescue Centre:

KZN Marine Stranding Network:

KZN Sharks Board:

  • 031 566 0400
  • Cetaceans (whales and dolphins) and whale sharks
  • 1a Herrwood Drive, Umhlanga, KwaZulu-Natal, 4320
  • Website

National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI):

  • 112 (from your cellphone)
  • 082 380 3800
  • Cetaceans (whales and dolphins)
  • 1 Glengariff Road, Three Anchor Bay, Cape Town, 8005
  • Email
  • Website

Plett Stranding Network:

  • All marine animals
  • 079 463 4837


  • Cape Town: 021 557 6155 – After hours/weekends: 078 638 3731
    • 22 Pentz Drive, Table View, Cape Town, 7441
  • St Francis: 042 298 0160 – After hours/weekends: 082 890 0207
    • Seal Point Lighthouse, Cape St Francis, Eastern Cape, 6312
  • Port Elizabeth: 041 583 1830
    • Cape Recife Nature Reserve, Marine Drive, Port Elizabeth, 6011
  • Penguins and seabirds
  • Email
  • Website

Seabird and Penguin Rehab Centre (SAPREC):

  • 082 364 3382
  • Penguins and seabirds
  • Voorlopersingel, Mossdustria, Mossel Bay, 6500
  • Facebook Page

South African Association for Marine Biological Research:

  • 031 328 8222
  • After hours: 031 328 8060
  • All marine animals
  • 1 King Shaka Avenue, Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, 4069
  • Email
  • Website

South African National Stranding Network:

  • Co-ordinator Meredith Thornton: 082 746 5579
  • All marine animals
  • Facebook Page

South African Whale Disentanglement Network:

  • Co-ordinator Mike Meyer: 082 578 7617
  • Cetaceans (whales and dolphins)

Stranded Marine Animal Rescue Team (S.M.A.R.T):

  • 072 227 4715
  • Cetaceans (whales and dolphins), seals and turtles
  • Mossel Bay
  • Facebook Page

Table Mountain National Park Marine Unit

  • 021 783 0234
  • After hours: 086 110 6417/021 937 0300
  • All marine animals
  • 2 Lighthouse Road, Kommetjie, 7975, Cape Town
  • Email

Two Oceans Aquarium:

  • 021 418 3823
  • Seals and turtles
  • Dock Rd, V&A Waterfront, Cape Town, 8002
  • Email
  • Website


First Aid Guidelines

African penguins

  • Due to their rapidly declining numbers and their endangered status, all penguins that come ashore in places other than their land-based colonies (Betty’s Bay, Boulders and Stoney Point) need to be reported to your nearest Nature Authority and admitted for rehabilitation.
  • Under no circumstances should a penguin be chased back into the water.
  • If you come across a single penguin on the beach, wrap it in a towel, covering its face and carefully pick it up. Penguins have very strong, sharp beaks so keep your face away from it and your arms clear. If possible, wear protection on your hands and over your eyes.
  • Place it into a box, with reasonably tall sides, approximately 3 times the size of the bird and lined with a dry towel.
  • Drop the penguin off, as soon as possible, at either a rehabilitation centre, the nearest offices of CapeNature or SANParks or a veterinary practice.
  • Do not try to feed the penguin or attempt to give it water as forcing it to eat whilst weak and hypothermic, could kill it.
  • Penguins that are rescued from the shore need to stay warm (just slightly warmer than room temperature), dry and calm until you can get them to an approved rehabilitation centre. Do not put it in the bath, shower or pool.
  • If you have a hot water bottle available, fill it with hot water, wrap it in a towel and place it next to the penguin. Make sure that the penguin is able to move away from the heat if necessary.
  • Make sure that the penguin is not constrained in any way, so that it can breathe, and that the box is adequately aerated.
  • Approved Penguin Rehabilitation Centres in the Eastern Cape:
    • SAMREC – Port Elizabeth
    • SANCCOB – Cape St Francis
  • Approved Penguin Rehabilitation Centres in the Western Cape:
    • African Penguin and Seabird Sanctuary (APSS) – Gansbaai
    • SANCCOB – Cape Town
    • Seabird and Penguin Rehab Centre (SAPREC) – Mossel Bay

African Penguin

Cetaceans (whales and dolphins)

  • For single or mass strandings, contact your nearest Nature Authority. This is the most important step as many areas have stranding networks of dedicated experts that will be able to efficiently help the animal (s).
  • NSRI crews have also been trained to deal with these types of strandings so they can be contacted.
  • If you spot a whale or dolphin entangled in rope at sea (or one struggling to swim – they could be weighted down) then contact the NSRI or SAWDN immediately and keep eyes on the animal until help arrives. Sea Rescue crews have been trained by the South African Whale Disentanglement Network (SAWDN) to safely disentangle these animals. Do not attempt to disentangle a whale at sea on your own; their size and power make it an incredibly dangerous situation.
  • Do not pour water down the blowhole of either a whale or a dolphin. This leads directly to its lungs and you will drown it.
  • Keep noise levels at a minimum, and dogs away, so as to not stress the animal (s) out.
  • Keep the animals cool by placing wet towels across their bodies. This also prevents sunburn.
  • Holes can be dug beneath the pectoral fins and tail flukes and filled with water to aid in keeping the animal cool. A trench can be dug to the sea, to assist in the filling of the holes with water.
  • Do not attempt to move the animal on your own (especially by tugging on its fins or flukes) as this could severely injure it.

Humpback Whale


  • Seals do come to the shore to rest after rough seas or to escape predators and it is therefore important not to intervene unless it is obvious that they have severe injuries or are clearly sick and emaciated.
  • Seals are protected by law and you are not allowed to remove them from the beach unless they are obviously injured.
  • Seals, being wild animals, are unpredictable and can become aggressive if cornered or stressed. Always give a hauled-out seal space (at least 5 m) and keep your dogs away from it.
  • Seals do secrete fluid from their tear ducts which look like tears running down their cheeks so this is not a sign that the seal is ill.
  • Seals should not be chased back into the water if they are on the beach. Seals should be left on the beach and reported to your nearest Nature Authority who will monitor the situation and intervene if necessary, transferring it for rehabilitation.
  • If you see people harassing a seal then please call your nearest Nature Authority.

Cape Fur Seal


  • Many seabirds, especially Cape gannets and African penguins, have sharp beaks so handle with care and where possible wear protection on your hands and your eyes.
  • Throw a towel or blanket over the bird to catch it, ensuring that the bird is able to breathe.
  • Place the bird in a large box, if you have one, after first ensuring that there are holes for air. Leave the bird wrapped in the towel/blanket (not too tight, loose enough to breathe) to minimise injury.
  • Keep the bird in a warm and quiet place until help arrives or drop it off at your nearest rehabilitation centre.

Black-browed Albatross


  • There are no turtle breeding beaches in the Western Cape and therefore the presence of a turtle on one of our beaches indicates a problem.
  • Adults: If you find an adult turtle on the beach (excluding those in Mozambique and Northern KZN), contact your nearest Nature Authority or Aquarium. Never put it back in the water. If you are going to transport it for rehabilitation, pick it up and place it on something firm. Do not turn it upside down. Do not drop it or place it in water. It should be kept at room temperature.
  • Hatchlings: If you find a hatchling, contact (or drop off at) your nearest Nature Authority or Aquarium. Do not place a juvenile turtle in water or attempt to return it to the sea as it could drown. Place it in a warm, dry and well-ventilated container.
  • Barnacles should never be forcefully removed from the shell as this will injure the scutes of the turtle.

Green Turtle