BORACAYNONS SAVE THE WHALE

“You can gauge the greatness of a  nation by the treatment of its animals”  – Mahatma Ghandi

Last month, Boracay locals, Bantay Dagat, staff  of Municipal Agricultures, Office of Malay,  Fisher Folks of Malay, Boracay European  International School teachers, Friends of  Flying Foxes, animal lovers, Mermaids and divers  gathered for a two-day workshop which aims to help  government officials and residents of the island learn  how to rescue and rehabilitate stranded marine mammals.

Held at The Vessel, Mandala Spa and run by the  Philippine Marine Mammal Stranding Network  (PMMSN) in association with Project MOM, the event  was much anticipated and was expertly curated by  ‘Mother Mermaid’, Normeth Preglo Parzhuber and cofounder  Anamie Saenz.

What is PMMSN? 

PMMSN is a network of professionals and volunteers  throughout the Philippines who are committed to  responding to stranded marine mammals, dead or  alive, within the Philippine coastlines.

Marine mammals can become stranded for a number  of reasons: they can experience acoustic trauma as a  result of blast or dynamite fishing, or they can become  entangled in fishing nets, amongst other situations.

The idea for PMMSN came about during a meeting  and workshop on marine mammals at Subic Bay in  2003. Then, in 2005 the very first National Marine  Mammal Stranding Response Training Workshop was  held at Ocean Adventure, Subic Bay. Since then, the  dedicated team has travelled all over the country  and has delivered over 88 workshops, successfully  training over 3,000 people on cetacean emergency first  response and the medical management of stranded  marine mammals.

PMMSN offers two training workshops: 

  1. Marine Mammal Stranding Response – qualifies  the participant as a First Responder
  2. Medical Management of Stranded Marine  Mammals – for veterinarians and medical  professionals

The event on Boracay focused on Level 1, and  everyone was firstly introduced to the concept of  ‘strandings’, why they happen and why we respond.  Next was the importance of correctly differentiating  between the marine mammal species indigenous to the  Philippines – these include various species of dolphin,  whale and dugong commonly seen in our seas.

The session also included the correct processes used  to safely and successfully handle the mammals in a  First Response situation, as well as how to correctly  take written and photographic records.

Of utmost importance, safety towards the rescuers was  taught, alongside ways and measures the rescuers can  reduce stress in the stranded creature while performing  the rescue.

Real-Life Rescue 

Then it was time for volunteers to carry out a ‘reallife’  rescue! Trainees took to White Beach and a  game volunteer put on a mermaid tail, courtesy of  the Philippine Mermaid Swimming Academy, to mimic  a stranded marine mammal. Rescuers split into two  teams and the trainers gave each team different rescue  scenarios to manage. It was a chance for trainees to  put their newly gained knowledge to the test!

Medical management, rehabilitation and long-term care  of the mammal were covered and to test their new  knowledge, trainees were given a final exam at the  end. Everyone passed with flying colors, and left the  workshops armed with the confidence and ability to  manage a marine mammal stranding situation.

Said Normeth, organiser of the event: “This is our  way of creating awareness through education. As a  child, I used to destroy corals and poisonous fish, and  I witnessed a whale being shot by the local police  thinking it was a danger to swimmers. I did not know  the importance of the ocean to humans, and I did not  know that sharks and marine mammals are necessary  for humans to survive. I did not know so I did not care.

“The Philippine Mermaid Swimming Academy would  like to thank the following people for making this  important and educational workshop a success: Our  guest speakers from PMMSN Dr.Lem Aragones and  Dr. Leo Suarez; our major sponsors Diniview Villas,  Hangin Kite Resort, Seb’varia Bar & Restaurant, and  Mandala Spa. Lastly, thanks to BISDAKK, Dive Gurus,  PCTV and SB member Nenette Graf for sponsoring  some important individuals to attend the workshop.”

How you can help PMMSA save our marine mammals  and educate the public on the importance of marine  mammal conservation:

  • Become a member: visit www.pmmsn.org
  • Make a donation: they accept donations in cash  and in kind. They need equipment and supplies,  such as medical equipment, transport equipment,  printed IEC materials, medicine and more.

If you would like to donate any of these items, or  want to know in what other ways you can donate,  please call: (063) 47 252 8494, email:bgespinos@  pmmsn.org, or visit www.pmmsn.org – also find them  on Facebook.

HOLLY GOLIGHTLY

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