Page 2

Dolphin Strandings
in low tide

THE DANGER TO DOLPHINSdanger
AND WHAT WE CAN DO TO HELP

A dolphin protected from the sun. Thanks for waiting
Covered from the sun and kept wet

Cuts from thrashing
This male injured himself in the rescue but
his cuts should heal quickly

Dolphins are very strong. They can become stressed during a release and thrash around. This large male temporarily thrashed around for only a matter of minutes and suffered some cuts in doing so.Other than that he remained calm. He is a strong dolphin and is expected to recover quickly from these wounds. It is important to call for expert assistance when finding a stranded animal, they can be very powerful and need to be kept calm and as unstressed as possible. This dolphin has been observed since his release swimming freely, with cuts healing.

Just prior to their release into deeper waters
Minutes after this photo, the dolphins were released together


Recollections of the rescue by a volunteer

The day was Thursday 13th March 1997. Sally and I got a call that some of our dolphin friends had become stranded in Lake Goegrup. We grabbed buckets, towels, and old shoes and raced to the area. The C.A.L.M. officers and Shire rangers were already in attendance and were preparing to move 3 of the six dolphins. The dolphins had followed the fish up the Serpentine River into the lake. The tide had dropped and consequently they got stuck. There were six dolphins, four males, one female and her female calf. When we arrived all of the dolphins were already rounded up and in slings. We covered them in wet towels and bucketed water over them to keep them cool and wet. The dolphins had varying degrees of sunburn mainly on their backs and flukes. The problem was there was no way we could herd them back up the river. The depth of the water was less than knee deep.

The CALM officers decided to carry the dolphins in slings to the small flat bottomed boats which were padded with foam. From there we pushed the dingys to the boat ramp which was about 1/2 km away. The water level in the lake was very low. All the dolphins seemed to be fine, CALM's only major concern was the mother and calf. They needed to keep these two together, otherwise the mother and calf would become extremely stressed.

 The first 3 males had been dropped off at the boat ramp, and it was now the turn of the three dolphins we had attended to. Carrying the slings to the boats was hard going for the guys, mainly because of the dolphins weight and also the knee deep mud. The mother and calf were placed in the same dinghy together and the large male in another. Once these 3 had joined the others at the boat ramp, it was time to examine them, freeze brand them, measure them, and carry them onto the trailers to make the 10kms journey back to the estuary's deeper waters. By now, a large crowd of concerned onlookers had gathered, and a large contingent of news crews.

With all this going on, the CALM officers and Rangers worked as an extremely professional and friendly team. While the dolphins were being freeze branded, the large male dolphin had decided he'd had enough and made a break for freedom. He started thrashing around in the confines of the aluminum boat, sending men and the motor flying. He managed to get back into the water, not before cutting himself up a bit. I found this all extremely distressing and promptly cried. Actually I cried quite a lot during the course of the rescue. Anyway, one of the CALM guys jumped on him and grabbed his pectoral fins, subduing him enough to put him back in the sling. He calmed down after that.

All the freezebranding was now done, and we now were in the final stage. The dolphins were loaded onto the trailers, two dolphins in each, on foam mattresses and padding. Each trailer was manned by an officer with a good supply of water to make the short journey. And so the procession began. Anyone unfamiliar with what was going on would have thought it was a funeral march, with a line of cars following at such a slow speed. Police assisted by stopping traffic to allow a straight and easy run.

The dolphins made it to the release area without a hitch. We quickly unloaded them and carried them out to deeper waters. Craig (my husband) Sally and I were attending to the calf, with her mother alongside. Dave Mell (head of the operation) requested quiet and still so the dolphins could be calm, and locate each other by echolocation as we released them. The moment came when we had to say goodbye.

We lowered the slings and they finally made their way into clean deep safer water. There was a resounding clap and a cheer from the crowd gathered on the shore. I cried again!! The whole operation began at around 10am and the dolphins were released at 5.20pm. I was extremely proud and privileged to be involved in the rescue. I owe CALM officers, and the shire rangers a debt of gratitude for saving our very special friends. On closing, I would like to mention that one of the dolphins had been stranded in the same place in 1990.

You think that this time he has learnt his lesson??

Thanks to Renee Hardman for her story and involvement in the rescue!


Freeze-branded dolphins in Mandurah

At each stranding rescue CALM wildlife officers freeze-brand the dolphins by immersing a brand in liquid nitrogen and holding it against the dorsal fin skin. This is painless to the dolphin. Though these brands do fade over time, several mandurah dolphins still clearly show their numbers from previous strandings. These numbers assist CALM to recognise that particular dolphin again, and track their progress.

.Newly freezebranded calf
New freezebrand on dorsal fin


The Dolphins swim free again

The pod after the release
15.3.97
Note freezebrand numbers will not show on this photo

The pod was sighted and followed on the Saturday, two days after their release. They were swimming easily, still together and actively chasing fish. They had been joined by other dolphins and spent the entire day in the peel inlet. The signs of their ordeal were still fresh, such as significant sunburn and cuts which are now healing

after the rescue
Number 23 days after the rescue

Postscript 18.4.97 : The pod has now been seen regularly in the peel inlet since their rescue, and are still together on most sightings.


What WE can do to help

Please help dolphins by keeping a close watch in areas where low tides and sand bars make stranding a possibility.

It is important to notify your local wildlife rescue service as soon as possible if dolphins are acting unusually or appear distressed, swimming aimlessly unable to leave an area due to tides, or are actually stranded.
In Mandurah Lake Goegrup is a particularly dangerous area for dolphins as are many areas of the estuary...
In Western Australia please contact CALM (Department of Conservation and Land Management) officers or the local rangers as soon as possible.

Should you find a stranded dolphin, the rescue service will advise you what to do while they arrive.

In a stranding, general procedures include:

If you can, bring buckets or water vessels, some sheets or towels or similar, water for yourself (it may take some time) and assistance.

Keep the animal cool, comfortable and calm. Find something cool and wet to cover the dolphin for protection from the sun (such as wet sheets/towels or even seaweed) as soon as possible being particularly careful not to get anything in the blowhole or the eyes. Dolphins overheat quickly on land, so keep the dolphin wet by continuously pouring water over it, but NEVER in/near the blowhole.

WARNING!

Water in the blowhole can drown the animal. Extreme care must be taken, by quickly covering the blowhole if water is to be poured near the dolphin's head. Avoid using a lot of water near this area due to the danger involved. Make sure EVERYONE is aware of the danger to the dolphin by water. in its blowhole.

Dolphins use their flippers,fin and tail for cooling, so its very important to keep these areas cool. Make sure they arent lying ackwardly on their flippers. Soothe the animal and working quietly and calmly in teams helps.Wait till expert help arrives before moving the dolphin.Once help arrives, the dolphin should be gently and very carefully rocked to the other side if it has been stuck in the same position for too long.Keep mothers and calfs together if possible. Keep crowds and noise away from the animals. The rescue team will try and move all animals together if it can be done and release them as a pod.
Remember there are experts in marine mammal rescues that must be called to ensure a successful result.

In closing we thank everyone who has assisted in any rescue, particularly in our part of the world we thank CALM, Shire rangers, West Whale, and volunteers. Congratulations!


Copyright details

Please note these images may NOT be used on another web page or for any commercial use unless they are used to help prevent dolphin strandings and written authority is given for their use. You may download these images for your own desktop or print them out to view, however any other use of any kind is not allowed without the prior written permission of S.Kirby.

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