Exmouth beach was a hive of activity on Sunday 20th May, when BDMLR medics arrived around 9am to find six stranded dolphins, with four pilot whales in the shallows and about to strand (in fact, the whales were totally deflated and waiting to be filled with water!). What would the rest of the day bring? How many animals and medics would survive?
The Mass Stranding Exercise had been organised to give trained volunteers the opportunity to test and refresh their skills and knowledge, whilst learning from their colleagues. The day was going to be long, but as the threatened weather held off, the conditions weren't as bad as had been anticipated.
Around 80 BDMLR medics were involved throughout the day, being filmed by a crew from BBC Coast for a programme next year featuring the charity. Presenter Miranda Krestovnikoff, a BDMLR Patron and trained volunteer medic, got stuck in on the rescue between interviewing a number of medics. Separately, Professor Bill Amos was interviewed about cetacean evolution and a post mortem will also be filmed at ZSL for the show.
A team from Cornwall Wildlife Trust Marine Strandings Network were also on hand, using the day as a refresher for their strandings and examination recording programme. It was good to have them round to remind BDMLR medics of the importance of recording data. BDMLR medics had copies of the MARC Recording Sheets to use during the day and much of this information recorded would be vital for the strandings investigation team on a real rescue.
All timings were pretty much as planned, with a full briefing starting the day. After assessment and a long period of first aid, those animals that were deemed healthy enough were refloated by 3pm, allowing us to have a full debrief on the beach at 3.45pm and be all cleaned and packed up by 5.15. BDMLR's rescue boat Josh was used as a safety boat and also to successfully relocate a whale on pontoons successfully.
Many thanks are due to the Exmouth Lifeboat Station team, all who helped to set the exercise up and participated during the day, especially the host coordinators Dave and Sue. Vets Darryl and Katie who were spectacularly creative in dreaiming up the animal scenarios. It was really encouraging to see so many medics turning up and willing to take part.
Everybody entered into the spirit of the day with real gusto, so a really great day was enjoyed by all and save for a bit of sunburn (you were warned!) there were no mishaps! Apologies are due though to the local lady who burst into tears, thinking that the models were all real!
BDMLR Operations Manager
(Thanks to Gavin Parsons and James Bryan for the photos).