On the morning of Sunday 26 July, BDMLR was alerted to a live stranded dolphin at Freshwater, Isle of Wight, that was stranded in a muddy inlet and being supported by a couple of members of the public.
There was immediate concern for the people, as the area is known for its soft mud substrate, and the local Coastguard Rescue Teams were also dispatched for safety cover while a team of BDMLR Medics were mobilised with rescue equipment, led by our Area Coordinator Stephan Voigt. On arrival the two people in the water were assisted to safety by the Coastguard and the RNLI lifeboat from Yarmouth, while the Medics kitted up in personal protective equipment and were then also assisted to the dolphin with guide ropes and other specialist mud rescue equipment.
The animal was assessed to be a young female bottlenose dolphin, and she was clearly in very poor body condition. To help support her while advice and veterinary assistance was sought, she was placed into a set of our specialist dolphin pontoons to stabilise her in an upright position to relieve the Medics from having to hold her, so that they could focus on further first aid measures and logistics. Her breathing rate was quite high at 13 breaths per minute and she was also arching her back every so often, which are clear indications of distress and did not diminish with care.
A local veterinarian from The Mobile Vet was able to attend to further assess the animal, and in consultation with our Veterinary Support Coordinator Natalie Waddington the decision was made that euthanasia would be the most appropriate course of action given her very poor state of health. Arrangements have since been made for a post mortem examination with the Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme to help understand why she had come to be in such a bad way.
Thank you to all BDMLR personnel who were involved in this incident, cetacean strandings on the Isle of Wight are generally few and far between and it was good to see the help and support of the Coastguard being used to safely work around the animal. We would of course also like to thank the Yarmouth RNLI team, Isle of Wight Police, Island Roads, The Lodge Crematorium and the Ventnor and Needles Coastguard Rescue Teams who provided a great deal of safety support and crowd control. We would like to echo their words of advice in this situation for people to not put themselves in danger if trying to help an animal and to call for help instead, and to please understand that our team who were already there caring for it to respect the cordoned off work area that the Coastguard teams set up in these circumstances to keep people at a safe distance. Unfortunately they received abuse from a small number of people who were trying to break through to access the dolphin for themselves, who would have ended up needing to be rescued by the lifeboat as well. The people who were rescued earlier on were checked over and treated for mild hypothermia before being discharged thankfully.