Marine Mammal Medicine Workshop, Kenya

For Immediate Release

San Diego, CA — March 20, 2024

The National Marine Mammal Foundation (NMMF), through its conservation medicine program, Operation GRACE (Global Rescue of At-Risk Cetaceans and Ecosystems), concluded a groundbreaking marine mammal training workshop in Kenya’s coastal region. The workshop, held in collaboration with the Kenya Marine Mammal Research and Conservation (KMMREC), marks a significant step in the ongoing commitment to preserving marine life in Kenya and beyond. Operation GRACE is a global initiative committed to the conservation of aquatic mammal species and their ecosystems.

The workshop was first imagined in 2019 by Dr. Ashley Barratclough, Conservation Medicine Veterinarian at the NMMF, following discussions with KMMREC lead biologist, Michael Mwang’ombe. The workshop materialized after overcoming multiple hurdles, including funding challenges and a worldwide pandemic, when a pivotal $50,000 grant was awarded by Dolphin Quest in 2022. Partnerships were formed with the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and Dr. James Hassel at the Smithsonian Institution, leading to the successful execution of the event in October 2023 at the Hemingways Hotel along the Kenyan coast.

Workshop participants engaged in both classroom lectures and hands-on learning experiences.

The goal of this comprehensive workshop was to provide training to local veterinarians, biologists, and fishers, empowering them with essential strategies to respond to stranded marine mammals. While Kenya is well known for its incredible diversity of wildlife, marine mammals are often overlooked. The workshop provided a platform to raise awareness and bridge this conservation gap. 

A primary focus was on the endangered Indian Ocean humpback dolphin (Sousa plumbea), known for its distinctive humpback appearance on its dorsal fin. NMMF biologist Todd Speakman presented attendees with information about this species and demonstrated how photo-identification tools like finFindR can help fill crucial data gaps, essential for effective conservation measures.

Renowned globally for its rich biodiversity, Kenya boasts a stunning array of life.

Workshop sessions included in-depth lectures on veterinary responses to stranded dolphins, remote health assessments, fieldwork techniques, and necropsy examinations. A special guest lecture by Dr. Tim Collins from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) on African Cetacean Conservation added a valuable global perspective to the event.

The workshop culminated in practical application when local responders alerted the team to a stranded, deceased spinner dolphin. Although an unfortunate occurrence, it served as an opportunity for participants to apply their acquired knowledge. Theoretical insight gained from the workshop sessions was put into practice, allowing for a comprehensive necropsy and hands-on experience for the participants.

Workshop participants put theoretical knowledge into practice after local responders alerted the team to a stranded, deceased spinner dolphin.

In addition to the educational outreach, foundational data was gathered concerning the presence of the endangered Indian Ocean humpback dolphins along the north Kenyan coast. This information will help establish essential conservation strategies dedicated to safeguarding this endangered species.

The success of this event goes beyond data collection or even the classroom. It actively engaged local indigenous fishing communities to foster awareness and education. These outcomes play a pivotal role in achieving sustainable change. By equipping these communities with knowledge, we’re cultivating a sustained dedication to the conservation of aquatic mammals.

The workshop aimed to train local veterinarians, biologists, and fishers in responding to stranded marine mammals, bridging a conservation gap for Kenya's marine life.

Operation GRACE extends its heartfelt gratitude to the partners and dedicated team members who contributed to the success of this workshop, including our project sponsor, Dolphin Quest, and partners at Kenya Marine Mammal Research and Conservation (KMMREC)Watamu Marine Association, the Wildlife Conservation Society, the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), KWS Kiunga Marine Preserve, KWS Watamu Marine National Park and Reserve, Wildlife Research and Training Institute (WRTI), the Hemingways Collection, and the Smithsonian National Zoo. Their collective efforts continue to drive impactful initiatives, steering towards a more sustainable future for our oceans’ magnificent creatures.

About the National Marine Mammal Foundation

The National Marine Mammal Foundation (NMMF) has a mission to improve and protect life for aquatic mammals, humans, and our shared oceans through science, service and education. With collaborative efforts and strategic partnerships, we strive to protect endangered species and their habitats for a sustainable future.

For more information on Operation GRACE and how to support our aquatic mammal conservation efforts, please visit