File picture: Ted Cheeseman/Wikipedia

Cape Town - The National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) and the environmental affairs department (DEA) have asked the public to stay away from a small pod of false killer whales who have sought refuge in the V&A Waterfront area in Cape Town harbour.

"Since this morning, Sunday, 4 February, four false killer whales, including a calf, have reportedly been swimming inside the Port of Table Bay in the V&A Marina," NSRI spokesman Craig Lambinon said.

"The department of environmental affairs - oceans and coasts (DEA) has urged boaters to give these false killer whales as wide a berth as possible when maneuvering boats around the Marina Basin," he said.

On Saturday, members of the public assisted to refloat what was believed to be three false killer whales beached at Sunset Beach in Milnerton. NSRI Melkbosstrand and the DEA responded to the incident and found that all three animals had been refloated by the public.

"The reason for the beachings are unknown, although it was suspected that one of the animals may have been injured," Lambinon said.

In a separate statement, the DEA said the pod was made up of three adults and one calf. "This group was stranded in Blouberg yesterday [Saturday] and was refloated by the public. One of the adults has head injuries, while the other two look in perfect condition. This led DEA to suspect that the injured individual may be responsible for the beaching yesterday [Saturday].

"The current location is the best under the circumstances. The department hopes that the injured whale will rest and gather enough strength to go back off-shore lest they re-strand.

"False killer whales were known to occur in large numbers of up to 40 animals made up of smaller groups of 10-20 individuals; however, smaller groups are not unheard of. This species is prone to strandings in large groups.

"Due to their strong social bonds, they hardly turn their back on a group member in distress. Thus, a compromised individual in the group can cause a stranding of the whole group. The public is therefore advised to avoid harassing the animals and allow them to recuperate from the stressful beaching yesterday [Saturday]. 

"DEA will continue to monitor the situation with our stakeholders, including the public. We thank all who continue to play a role in this developing situation," the department said.

African News Agency/ANA