Posted by: thewideblueyonder | December 1, 2008

Eight-hour battle to save the lives of a stranded dolphin and her calf

A 18-strong team including divers, vets and medics battled for eight hours to save the lives of a dolphin and her calf after they became stranded in an inland creek. It is thought that the mother, who was six-foot long, and her baby had become stranded in the early hours of yesterday after swimming a few miles up the creek at high tide.

Dolphin and calf

A rescue worker checks to see if the stranded dolphin is well enough to refloat

Experts do not know why the pair beached but believe they may have been stuck on a sandbank for about three hours until members of the public spotted them just after 9am. The family had swum up Frenchman’s Creek, off the Helford River in Cornwall the spot made famous by a Daphne du Maurier novel of the same name.

Dave Jarvis, of the British Divers Marine Life Rescue, who organised the operation, said that it took locals, two vets, and 11 specially trained divers to undertake the rescue. Initially it was feared that the mother may have been too ill to refloat and her calf would have to be killed if it was still maternally dependent – but a vet decided the pair could survive.

‘We suspect the animals had stranded in the early hours high tide was about 6am, so they could have stranded about then,’ Mr Jarvis said. ‘We don’t know why they stranded – it could have been a navigational error. ‘They had been there a while when they had been found.’

Dolphin and calf 

It took 18 people eight hours to tend to the animals

‘The mother was in a moderate condition and the calf may have been maternally dependent. They are social animals so they tend to stay around their mother. ‘When we first arrived the situation wasn’t good. If the vet had said the mother couldn’t go back out, we would have had to euthanase the calf if it was maternally dependent.’

Fortunately the mother was in good enough health to be refloated, but the tide was out leaving only a mud and no way to get the dolphins back to sea at the location. The team decided, using the aid of tarpaulins, to relocate the animals, in order to release them into the sea.

‘The only way to get them out was by vehicle, and we had to relocate them to another beach,’ Mr Jarvis said. Obviously, they were quite stressed when we tried to move them. They are not used to going for a Sunday drive.’

Finally, the resuers where able to release the mother and child back into the sea

Mother and calf were driven to Porthallow beach, 20 minutes away, where rescuers waded through fierce, freezing surf to get them to open water. The calf, who was three foot long, was washed back into shore a couple of times, while its mother waited for it to swim out to her but eventually managed to get back out to see. ‘The mother went out but the calf rebeached a couple of times. We eventually got her out there to her mother,’ said Mr Jarvis.

‘The last sighting was of them heading out to sea.’

Peter Bullard, watch manager at Falmouth Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre, said:  ‘Due to the fact there was a falling tide and onshore winds, the BDMLR had to take the mother dolphin and its calf to Porthallow where they were successfully refloated.

‘The dolphins were marked with orange biodegradable tape, so if they were to come ashore again in the next few days they would be recognised.’


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