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


2009-07-05 09:35:14

Neonate Harbour Porpoise Stranding

Neonate Harbour PorpoiseOn the morning of Sunday 5th July 2009, I received a call from the BDMLR Out of Hours Co-ordinator as a small Harbour Porpoise had been found on the beach at Dovercourt near Harwich. After a quick dash through the house to grab all the bits needed – whilst having a minor panic as this was my first call out as area co-ordinator for Clacton/South Suffolk, myself and Andrew Boulden headed out to Dovercourt as fast as we could.

The Porpoise had been found by some fairly (early for me) early morning dog walkers lying in the surf at high tide and they kindly remained with it and kept it wet and upright until we arrived. A call to local medic Leon Woodrow whilst en route, revealed he was already at the scene in his boat, and was looking for any sign of other Porpoises in the area as this appeared to by a young animal. Unfortunately, despite good sea conditions none were sighted, the only thing popping up was a nosy seal from Walton Backwaters just down the coast!

Neonate Harbour PorpoiseOn arrival at the scene after a mile slog down the beach with all the kit, my worst fears were quickly realized as it was apparent that this was a very young Porpoise in very poor body condition with an elevated breathing rate. After a quick, initial assessment of the animal – a young female, 85 cm long with no visible injuries – we set about making the youngster as comfortable as possible. Once we had set her up on an airbed with wet sheets to keep her cool (and me acting as a sun shade!) her breathing rated settled down quickly and remained steady at 6 breaths per minute. Now satisfied that she was as comfortable as we could make her, I set about the task of finding a vet to come out to euthanise. Veterinary Advisor, James Barnett had already taken a look at photos and established she was a neonate and in poor condition so sadly not viable for refloat as she was still maternally dependent with no sign of mum in the surrounding area. This was no easy task and after calling pretty much every vet in Colchester, Clacton, Harwich and surrounding areas with no luck, I was able to get in touch with Graham Jackson from Bury St Edmunds who was able to come out to us to help.

Whilst waiting for Graham to arrive, we made sure she was kept as cool as possible and out of the sun’s glare. She did keep rolling on to one side and became agitated again, but I discovered if I sat with the airbed propped up by my knees on one side this kept her upright and her breathing once again stabilized. The Harbour Porpoise was euthanised on site and collected by ZSL for post mortem on Monday afternoon (after a night in our garage!).

A huge thank you to medics Andrew Boulden and Leon Woodrow for their help with this stranding, to Jason Carter for hunting down vets for me and to Graham Jackson for attending this stranding although it was quite a distance to travel for him. Also huge thanks to the members of public who very kindly waited with the Porpoise until we arrived and helped us to try and track down a local vet - apologies, I totally forgot to get your names!

Emma Webb
BDMLR Clacton/South Suffolk Co-ordinator