Plettenberg Bay, South Africa 21 June – 30 June 2024

The Elusive Bryde's

Past, present and future research on the Bryde's whales

Dr Gwenith Penry presents an overview of the Bryde's whale species, frequently overlooked and understudied in South Africa owing to its elusive nature. I will also present findings from previous research and discuss current and future projects and the conservation reasons for this work. Come and learn about South Africa's only resident large-whale species, frequently seen in Plettenberg Bay, and some of its unusual biological traits.


Dr Gwenith Penry is a marine mammal biologist based in Plettenberg Bay, South Africa. Her research over the past 20 years has been focused on the South African Bryde’s whale but she has also worked on several species in different countries around the world. Gwen completed her BSc Hons in Zoology at Cardiff University and in 2003 began the Bryde’s whale research through the Centre for Dolphin Studies in Plett, under the supervision of Dr Vic Cockcroft and worked as a guide on the whale-watching vessels in her spare time. In 2005 Gwen began her PhD on the Biology of South African Bryde’s whales through the University of St Andrews’ Sea Mammal Research Unit in Scotland and the Centre for Dolphin Studies in Plettenberg Bay. The focus of this PhD was to identify the abundance, seasonal occurrence, and genetic identity of the Bryde’s whales that occur in and around Plettenberg Bay. Through the University of Pretoria’s Mammal Research Institute, Dr Penry embarked on a 2 year post-doctoral research project to extend the work done during her PhD by collecting data in False Bay and East London. This work was the first of its kind to investigate the population size, distribution and occurrence, and genetics of this poorly studied, resident large whale species. Gwen is still based in Plettenberg Bay and continues to work on the Southern African Bryde’s whale project. She is a Research Associate of the Nelson Mandela University’s Coastal and Marine Research Institute (CMR), a Research Fellow with the MRI Whale Unit, established the local Plett Stranding Network, and is actively involved in long-term monitoring of marine mammals along the South African coast. Nationally she is a core member of the Humpback dolphin Consortium, a collection of scientists throughout South Africa working to better protect this Endangered species, and a member of the Scientific and Technical Advisory Working Groups for marine mammals in South Africa. Gwen is also on several international and regional bodies working on marine mammals, including the IUCN’s Cetacean Specialist Group, the IndoCet Consortium (Indian Ocean Cetacean Research), and her work has contributed to the identification of 3 Important Marine Mammal Areas (IMMAs) in the southwest Indian Ocean. Gwen is a strong advocate of citizen science contributions to better understand the occurrence and distribution of marine mammals and the value of public education and engagement in the marine environment.

This event takes place on:

Friday 21 June

14:00 - 14:25