Stranded dolphin rescued after five-hour operation

A stranded dolphin has been saved after a five-hour rescue operation in Cornwall.

The mammal was stuck in shallow water at Mawgan Creek in the Helford Estuary, near Helston.

The area is well known as a strandings trap for dolphins with many tidal muddy creeks and a team from the British Divers Marine Life Rescue was dispatched to help.

The common dolphin was stranded about 100 metres along from the nearest access point and getting to it required climbing over or ducking under a number of fallen trees along the edge of the riverbank.

The dolphin was being supported on the water’s edge by a local builder who had found and reported it on Monday morning.

A common dolphin
A common dolphin

Dan Jarvis, Cornwall area co-ordinator for the British Divers Marine Life Rescue, said: “There was some concern about one eye that was being kept closed as it had a cut just above it and was bleeding slightly, but after further examination it was deemed they eye itself was not damaged.

“The animal was very responsive and vocal throughout.”

Vets decided refloating would be the most suitable method of rescuing the dolphin and it was marked with three orange stripes on its dorsal fin for future identification.

“Obviously getting lost in the tidal creek was the main reason it had stranded in the first place,” Mr Jarvis said.

“In this case, and with high tide having just peaked, releasing it back into the creek would of course leave a high risk of restranding.

“Getting it back to the cars to attempt a journey by road to the coast was also very difficult due to the number of fallen trees and wading further out to get around them was also very risky due to the deep sinking mud.

“Boat was really the only and best option if one could be found. It was now a race against time and tide.”

A nearby family offered the use of their boat and the dolphin was loaded onto a stretcher and covered with a sheet.

The dolphin was loaded into a borrowed boat and taken back out to sea (Dan Jarvis/PA).
The dolphin was loaded into a borrowed boat and taken back out to sea (Dan Jarvis/PA).

“There was a fairly long journey ahead as Mawgan Creek is over three miles from the open sea, and the speed of course had to be kept reasonably slow to minimise stress to the animal while first aid and monitoring continued throughout,” Mr Jarvis said.

“Finally, once the boat had reached point south of Rosemullion Head and facing the open sea of Fal Bay, the dolphin was carefully put overboard in the stretcher and held in place to acclimatise to its new surroundings that it had suddenly found itself in.

“Encouragingly, it quickly showed signs of wanting to swim, and was supported for just a few minutes to be sure before the stretcher was let go and the dolphin released.”