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Jane Goodall to visit Uganda as Ngamba Island celebrates 25 years

While the world had its attention focused on the prestigious Ngamba Island, celebrating its 25th year with a visit from none other than Dr. Jane Goodall, a heartwarming story was unfolding on the shores of Grande Comore Island.

The inhabitants of this island, using basic means and sheer determination, rallied together to rescue a 10-ton baby humpback whale stranded near the port of Moroni. This inspiring story is a reminder that even in the face of limited resources, the collective will of the community can achieve wonders.

In an unfortunate turn of events, two humpback whales, a mother and its calf, found themselves stranded in Kaleweni Bay, near the port. While the mother whale managed to find her way back to the vast expanse of the Indian Ocean, the baby whale was not so fortunate. It remained stranded during the low tide.

In a mass mobilization effort, divers, coast guards, fishermen, and even the local police came together to ensure the baby whale’s survival. “It was a race against time and nature. All we had was our determination and a few buckets,” says Nazir Farid, the head of Comores PlongĂ©e, a local diving outfit.

These southern humpback whales, known scientifically as Megaptera novaeangliae, undertake long migratory journeys, moving from Antarctic feeding grounds towards tropical areas for mating and calving. Sadly, after the initial rescue, the baby whale got ensnared in fishing nets, prompting another immediate rescue effort.

The efforts were all-consuming and dangerous. Balancing on a rickety wooden boat, the rescue team, including Farid and local fishermen, had to carefully navigate the choppy waters and free the whale from the net’s clutches without harming it or themselves.

Miraculously, as darkness enveloped the horizon, two adult humpback whales were spotted swimming in the direction of the rescued calf. Hopeful and optimistic, Mzembaba, a local, commented, “The sight of the adult humpback whales was promising. We believe the calf is still alive.”

The events of the day were not just a testament to the spirit of the Grande Comore community but also an urgent reminder of the threats marine life faces. National Geographic states that the humpback whale population saw a drastic decline before the 1985 ban on commercial whaling. While numbers have since improved, the main dangers to these magnificent creatures now are ship collisions and, as witnessed, entanglement in fishing gear.

As Ngamba Island rejoices in its milestone, and as the world applauds Dr. Jane Goodall’s invaluable contribution to conservation, the tale from Grande Comore stands as a beacon, reminding us of the on-ground realities and the power of community-led conservation efforts.


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