A DOLPHIN RESCUE: HOW ONE MADE IT BACK TO THE SEA
PUBLISHED: 13:16 11 March 2015 | UPDATED: 13:06 30 August 2017
When a young Risso’s dolphin found himself stranded on a beach in Cornwall help was soon at hand from the British Divers Marine Life Rescue
When a young male Risso's dolphin was found stranded on the beach at Perranporth, the British Divers Marine Life Rescue, who are a national organisation with trained marine mammal medics, came to its aid.Here three members of the team recount their role in its dramatic rescue
Dave Jarvis Trustee and Regional Coordinator
As Area Coordinator, my role at rescues revolves around the overall management of the incident on the beach. Fortunately we have several experienced marine mammal medics’ in Cornwall and they are extremely skilled in dealing with the treatment and care of stranded animals. At this particular incident, I received the initial call to report that there was a large dolphin or possibly a small whale on the beach at Perranporth. My task is then to get personnel to respond to the location as rapidly as possible and whilst we await a preliminary assessment of the situation, to arrange for the mobilisation of kit and equipment that might be necessary to carry out a rescue. It is also my responsibility to liase with our Head Office and other agencies, such as the Maritime Coastguard Agency, etc and also to arrange for the attendance of a veterinary surgeon, because the latter is essential to aid in the rescue effort, by professionally assessing the animal and administer any necessary treatment. Obviously, these incidents generate a great deal of media interest and therefore a further part of my role involves in advising representatives of radio and television of what is happening and why decisions have been made.
Annabelle Lowe Marine Mammal Medic
As first medic to arrive on scene, I recruited members of the public to help keep the Rissos Dolphin's upright and skin wet… cooling him down. We straddled wet towels over his entire body and seaweed over his tall dorsal fin, to stop him drying out. As Faye, Dave and more Medics arrived he became stressed so the team moved away from his eye line which calmed him down. I poured cool sea water over his bulbous head whilst protecting his blow hole from flooding, talking gently to him and occasionally he responded, staring right into my eye… my very soul...live I thought, live! Finally the vet said return him to the sea. The surf was large as we rocked him to stimulate his equilibrium. We let go and he rolled to his side, dangerously putting his blow hole under the water… COME ON I shouted ..YOU CAN DO IT! and then everyone splashed and shouted for him to go , to motivate him...his tail began to flap powerfully and off he went...slow and unsteady at first, then purposefully out of the sea ....never to be seen again. We were elated and this remains one of the most amazing experiences of my life...I love being a medic!
Faye Archell, Charity trustee and marine mammal medic
It’s never good news when the regional coordinator for BDMLR (Dave Jarvis) rings you at 8 0’clock in the morning… It usually means that there’s a stranded animal in need of assistance. 90% of the work we do is rescuing seals so I was surprised when Dave told me that we had a stranded dolphin. I was even more surprised when he said that it was a Risso’s dolphin. Although Risso’s are occasionally spotted off the coast of Cornwall, it is unusual for them to strand. I packed my car up with basic first aid equipment – sheets, buckets and KY jelly (we use this to keep the eyes and blowhole lubricated).
When I arrived on scene Dave put me in charge of coordinating the animals care whilst he organised getting a vet on scene and the equipment we would need to refloat the dolphin. Annabelle already had everyone organised and providing excellent care. The animal was covered in sheets and being kept cool and wet and the dolphins breathing rate was being monitored. The vet arrived and after a thorough health check and a shot of anti-inflammatories and long lasting antibiotics the decision was made to refloat. I split the rescue team in to two so that we could have a rota of people holding the dolphin in the water. A stranded animal needs time once back in the water to restore its equilibrium. This can sometimes be a lengthy process and it’s important that medics don’t spend too long in the water and run the risk of hypothermia. Eventually the dolphin regained his strength and made a dash for the open sea. Everyone was cheering and some even shed a little tear.
British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) provide a 24-hour marine animal rescue service.Their teams are on standby to respond immediately to any marine disaster or marine mammal stranding anywhere in the UK. Alltheir volunteers regularly train to refresh rescue techniques and meet socially to keep in touch with each other and raise funds.
However, they need more Marine Mammal Medics to jointheir rescue teams to continue the vital first response. Importantly you do not have to be a diver, although a dry suit or wetsuit is a must (British waters are cold!). www.bdmlr.org.uk
To find out what you should do if you find a stranded whale or dolphin please click here