One Man’s Mission to Save Sea Lions from Plastic Entanglements
By: Madeleine Wisecup
Ocean Conservation Namibia
Naude Dreyer on rescuing sea lions from plastic entanglement, life in Namibia, and the importance of slowing down and finding contentment in life
“It’s difficult because this is human-caused damage. These animals aren’t dying of starvation or natural disease, plastic entanglement is all human inflicted harm. And the seals aren’t going to help themselves so, it’s up to us to help them…. I just feel it’s our responsibility to try to do something about it.”
Today it is estimated that between 640,000 and 800,000 tons of fishing nets are dumped or lost at sea every year. These discarded nets, also known as “ghost nets” drift through the ocean entangling whales, seals, and turtles. In fact, according to the Center for Biological Diversity, an estimated 100,000 marine animals are “strangled, suffocated, or injured by plastics every year.” Obviously, Naude and his team are not going to single-handedly solve this global issue, but they are making a difference in the lives of marine wildlife in their corner of the world. Over the course of the past few years, Naude and his team have personally rescued more than 600 sea lions from plastic entanglement, 300 of which were in the past two years alone.
In this episode we explore:
- What it’s like living in Namibia
- How Naude first got involved in rescuing sea lions + why it matters.
- How Naude and his team rescue sea lions from plastic entanglements + the challenges they face.
- The impact our international maritime industry (i. e., human impact) is having on marine wildlife.
- Why it’s so important to educate the next generation about how best to prevent plastic pollution
- The importance of slowing down and not stressing about the things in life we can’t control.
- How his daughter’s battle with cancer helped his family realize what is truly important & meaningful in life. #beatcancer
- His entrepreneurial challenges, and so much more!
This was such a wonderful and insightful conversation! Happy listening.
Q & A with Naude Dreyer
1. City of residence: Walvis Bay, Namibia
2. Place of birth: I was born in the Etosha National Park – the biggest game reserve in Namibia. My parents worked there at the time
3. Can you please give us a brief overview of the work you’re currently doing to help protect sea lions from plastic entanglements/help raise awareness about fishing lines, etc.?
What started out as a hobby turned into a full-blown obsession/passion. About 7 years ago I caught and disentangled my first seal. The satisfaction was immense and I started actively looking for more animals to help. Only quite recently I started recording these and posting them on social media. The response has been unbelievable and has led me to believe that I can use this as a platform to implement some real change. I have recently launched a GoGetFunding campaign to raise some funds for what my team and I are doing. We have a range of different projects coming up, focussing mainly on reducing fishing waste, i.e. plastic pollution, and education within the fishing industry to bring attention to the damage being done.
4. What is the most challenging aspect of the work you’re doing?
Firstly, safety is a massive challenge. These animals are extremely strong and can get very vicious when cornered and held down. I have been bitten a few times, but I like to think that I have refined my technique enough to avoid damage – most of the time 🙂 Another big challenge is that we cannot help all the entangled animals we find. Sadly some are too big to catch or too fast and get back into the water before we can reach them.
5. What is the best part of the work you’re doing?
The satisfaction of knowing that you are giving this animal a second chance. Especially when we re-capture a previously entangled animal and see how much they have healed.
6. If you could share just one piece of wisdom with the world, what would it be?
Know that small actions, like actively picking up a simple piece of trash, can have big consequences. Also, try to lead by example – there are always kids watching what we are doing, and how can we expect them to activate change if they don’t have anyone to show them the way.
7. Quote you (try to) live by?
Quote’s I live by: “It’s not cancer!” – My 4-year-old daughter was diagnosed with cancer four years ago. She’s doing great now but had to endure 15 months of really invasive Chemotherapy and radiation. After this journey, my family and I went through quite a transformation, realizing that a lot of things we perceive as being problems are actually really trivial in the bigger picture.
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