Cape Town - The whale shark which took refuge in the warmer waters of the Knysna lagoon since this weekend has died due to the icy ocean temperatures as well as 'suspected propeller damage'.
This is according to SANParks' Knysna area environmental monitor Jene Conradie, speaking to the Knysna-Plett Herald on the scene.
Conradie says that it's possible the cold water initially placed the juvenile whale shark into a numb state of shock over the weekend when water temperatures in the ocean dropped to 8°C, after which the tide carried it into the estuary at Knysna.
Despite rescue efforts throughout the weekend, the whale shark kept returning to the sand banks as rescue workers tried to push it back out to sea.
Conradie says that the noise pollution generated by boat propellers also likely added to the animal's stress.
Sadly, the National Sea Rescue Institute and SANParks rangers over the weekend urged visitors and especially boat operators in the area to be mindful of the vulnerable whale shark in the Knysna lagoon.
Watch the video below to see the full explanation as given by Conradie and honorary ranger Baden Hall -
The NSRI assisted in a rescue attempt when the shark beached on Saturday, 11 March. Appearing ill and weak, the animal was assisted in breathing by pumping water through its gills, the NSRI said.
Although rescue workers from the NSRI and South African National Parks manage to strengthen the animal and swim it back out to the deep sea, it kept returning to the warmer waters close to the sand banks.
The animal has since been declared dead. Samples have been taken for marine biologists at Bayworld in Port Elizabeth to analyse, after which the whale will be pushed back out to the ocean for "nature to take its course," Conradie says.
This is what the whale shark looked like in the Knysna lagoon -
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