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


2005-03-21 15:48:54

Common dolphin stranding at Lancing

Brighton Sea Life Centre contacted me at 3.15pm today (21st March) reporting a live dolphin stranding at Lancing in West Sussex. Alan Knight (BDMLR Director), Alec Anscombe and I departed the Uckfield office. East Sussex WRAS rescuer and 2 day qualified Marine Mammal Medic Maz Smith was already on way from Hove. We arrived to find Maz and beach workmen helping the dolphin which was identified as a common dolphin. Trevor and Alec joined Maz in stabilising the dolphin while Alan started sorting out an assessment. The dolphin's lumber muscle was concave and there were several superficial wounds to the dorsal fin, ridge of lower back above tail stock and tail.

The breath rate was 8-10 per minute, so the dolphin was move a few metres up the beach, to a better location. It was also noted that there were several teeth missing on the lower jaw. The RSPCA and Coastguard turned up plus BDMLR medic Stephen Marsh. Steve got his drysuit on and got stuck in helping.

Alan with the help of the RSPCA managed to get a vet from Grove Lodge to attend. After guidance from James Barnet, Alan Knight and notes in the Marine Mammal Medic Handbook the vet euthanased the dolphin.

A more detailed examination after death showed that most of the upper teeth were missing. It is thought that the female dolphin was quite old. The body was take to a local veterinary centre for Richard Sabin, from the Natural History Museum, to collect tonight.

Trevor Weeks
East Sussex Wildlife Rescue Ambulance Service & BDMLR Sussex

Post Mortem results

The adult female common dolphin (NHM ref: SW2005/65) was extremely underweight and heavily parasitised. She also had a severe thickening of the thoracic spine (probably degenerative arthritis), and had lost a number teeth, suggesting she was quite old. To add to her list of complications, there was a discharging chronic mucosal abscess in the back of the mouth at the base of the larynx which may have compromised feeding. She had stranded alive in extremis, and euthanasia was without doubt the most humane option for her. Well done to all involved.

Re: tail fluke parasite. Looks like the common ectoparasite (Penella sp.)

Paul D. Jepson BVMS PhD MRCVS
Co-ordinator, Marine Mammal Strandings Research
Zoological Society of London

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