Just after lunchtime on Sunday 30 June, calls were received on BDMLR’s hotline to report a live stranded common dolphin at Hannafore beach, Looe, in South East Cornwall. Callout texts were sent and a number of Marine Mammal Medics responded, including our recently retired consultant veterinarian Darryl Thorpe who led the incident. Meanwhile members of the public were instructed over the phone how to provide care for the animal until help arrived.
Our team was also ably assisted by Looe Coastguard who sent a team down to assist with the animal and public safety, as with it being a warn and sunny weekend it was very busy on the beach. Looe Lifeboat Station also provided assistance with their Inshore Lifeboat being launched to help clear the immediate area of watercraft due to concern that underwater noise could be causing further distress.
The dolphin was a male, 1.9m long but in moderate to poor body condition. It had already been refloated a handful of times before the arrival of medics, but had restranded each time. Its breathing rate was high, although this gradually came down once first aid and care were given by the team.
It was supported in relatively shallow water to allow it time to stabilise while the health assessment was carried out, however it soon became apparent that its reflexes were slow and weak. It struggled to lift its head properly to breathe at the surface and showed no signs of trying to swim for itself. Therefore, taking everything into account about the animal’s condition, its lack of improvement and poor prognosis, the decision was made in conjunction with a veterinarian from Luxstowe Vets to put the animal to sleep to prevent further suffering. The body was recovered for post mortem examination at the University of Exeter Cornwall for the Cornwall Wildlife Trust Marine Strandings Network and Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme- UK strandings to help understand more about why this animal may have come ashore.
We would like to thank the members of the public who initially reported and aided the dolphin; Looe Coastguard and RNLI teams, and Erin from Luxstowe Vets for their support during this incident. Additionally we would also like to thank the CWTMSN volunteers who helped recover the body, and of course our own team of volunteer Medics who attended, along with Teri and Dan who were in the background operating the phones and facilitating communication throughout.
Photo courtesy of Ian Foster (RNLI)