Research Collection

Marine Mammal Biology

The marine mammal section conducts active research on cetaceans and pinniped off the coast of South Africa and on the islands of the Southern Ocean. This work encompasses trophic biology, foraging behaviour, morphology, taxonomy and interactions with humans.

The marine mammal collection had its inception with a sperm whale skeleton collected in 1897 but started in earnest with the appointment of Graham Ross as marine mammal biologist in 1968. Since that time it has grown to the largest marine mammal collection in the Southern Hemisphere and one of the largest in the world. It currently comprises some 5 300 specimens representing 43 different species of whales and dolphins, 12 species of seals and one species of sirenian. The material is primarily from the coasts of the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Southern Ocean islands. Most specimens originate as stranded animals, bycatch in anti-shark nets or from natural mortalities at seal colonies. The collection is well known amongst the international marine mammal research community worldwide and material is used by biologists from around the world as part of a wide variety of projects.

The section responds to reports of strandings in the Southern and Eastern Cape. These can be reported to the stranding hotline at 07 17 24 21 22.   


Dr Greg Hofmeyr

sign up to our newsletter