British Divers Marine Life Rescue
British Divers Marine Life Rescue (photo: Steve Marsh)
British Divers Marine Rescue


2006-04-16 13:52:59

Live dolphin stranding at Whitley Bay, Tyne & Wear

Air temp 14C. Windy with broken cloud. Mostly sunny

I received a call from Richard Ilderton at approx 9:25 am advising that there was a striped dolphin stranded on the beach at Tynemouth and could I attend as co-ordinator. The report had come in from some members of the public (Chris Wright and Stephen. Sorry I forgot your second name Stephen!) that they had found the dolphin while walking their dogs along the beach. Chris and Steve advised that they had tried to get the dolphin back into the water 3 times but on each occasion it had immediately re-stranded. Phone advice to them given by Simon Drayton confirmed that they should keep the animal on the beach and covered with a wet blanket until Marine Mammal Medics arrived, which they duly did.

RNLI inshore lifeboat team were in attendance as was Tynemouth Volunteer Life Brigade.

I arrived at 10am and was informed by Adam Duffy (T.V.L.B.) that the two members of the public who had reported the dolphin were still on site. R.N.L.I. and T.V.L.B. had a blanket covering the dolphin and the dolphin and had buckets of water on hand to keep the dolphin wet.

It was immediately apparent upon checking the dolphin over that it was suffering from malnutrition as its lumbar muscles were very concave in shape. The animal was approximately 1.1 metres in length. Also apparent were skin lesions in various states covering the body. The mouth had some very nasty looking lesions all along the length of the beak and these were repeated somewhat at the base of the pectorals close to the body. Some of the lesions across the body looked as if the animal had been 'drilled' with an 8mm drill bit and pink flesh was visible within. Other lesions looked like blooms. Dark grey/black in colour, about the size of a penny piece, with an inner ring and then a separate outer ring, looking much like a flower head. A larger patch of very rough skin (about 4cm across) was visible on the back of 'Easter' (the name she had been given) forward of the pectoral on the left side of the body. Nasty white looking blooms were here and the skin was bubbled and blistered. Eyes were clear and clear mucous was apparent. Blow hole had no discolouring or inflammation from what I could see. Rear of the dorsal on the right hand side was a cut of about 8-10cm in length. This looked as if it was an old injury that had healed.

Breath rate at time of my arrival was given at 9 per minute. Easter was active, raising tail and shivering along the full length of the body. The shivers were constant. No injury was noted on the tail flukes of the pectoral fins apart from a slight bleeding from the right fin due to sand abrasion.

Breath rate varied from 7 pm to 12pm. KY Jelly was smeared around the blowhole and a constant dousing of water across Easter was kept up by volunteers. The wind was drying the skin very quickly so a windbreak was set up by the T.V.L.B. It was fashioned from one of their stretchers. A tape cordon square was set up at 10meters but it was very quickly apparent that the constant noise from this caused by the strong wind hitting it was distressing Easter. We took two of the tapes down quickly to reduce noise. The public generally were very good, keeping a respectful distance.

As Easter was very active and moving around it was decided to place the dolphin on an inflatable mattress. A team was assembled and the softly inflated mattress was placed by the side of the dolphin. As we rolled the dolphin over and slid the bed underneath Adam Duffy had a chance to check the underside (as he was in the best position) and advised that Easter was a female. I confirmed this, just before she weed on my hand! She was rolled onto her side, taking care not to trap the pectoral fin and then rolled back again into the centre of the (now doused with water) mattress.

Breathing rate increased up to 12 pm and stayed at around 11-12 until I noted that her right eye was touching the mattress. She was righted into a better position on the air mattress and slowly her breathing rate came back down to 8-9 pm although at one point it had dropped to 4 pm. The dolphin seemed to stress more when buckets of water were moved on or around her head and was less stressed by use of the watering can to keep her head wet.

Veterinary Jane Amaku gave Easter a full health check over and it was decided that it would be best for the dolphin if she was put to sleep due to her very poor condition. This was duly done and Easter went very peacefully.

RSPCA Officer Brian Moffat has taken the dolphin into storage until it can be collected by Veterinary Paul Jepson for post mortem. Details have been passed to Paul for collection.

Thank you to all who assisted. The team work was excellent.

Helpful members of the public Chris Wright, Steve, Mike Garnett who pitched in and would make great Marine Mammal Medics!

Jill McCormick (MMM.)
Sarah Madder (MMM.) who brought along husband Keith too
Mark Menham (MMM)
Karen Vacher (MMM)
Will Hog (Capt. TVLB. and M. M. M.)
Michael Davy (Capt. TVLB.)
Adam Duffy (TVLB.)
Peter Lilley (TVLB.)
Robert Oliver (Senior Helmsman RNLI)
Robert Ayling (RNLI)
Harvey Smith (RNLI)
Brian Moffat (RSPCA)
Tony, Simon and Richard

Graeme Shaw
BDMLR Marine Mammal Medic
Assistant Co-ordinator, Tyne Tees region