First confirmed successful refloat of stranded dolphin - seen with calf UPDATE

27th Jun 2013

A dolphin now known as Sandy Salmon was the first documented case of a successful live-stranded and subesquently rescued bottlenose dolphin in Ireland. She stranded at Beal, Co Kerry on 1 June 2012 and was recorded from dolphin tour boats in the Shannon on a number of occasions during 2012, the last occasion with what was suspected to be its calf. We are delighted to announce that Sandy Salmon has been recorded again this year!

She has been seen on three research trips so far, on 1 May, 21 June and 24 June – and her calf has been seen with her each time. We can now say without a doubt that this dolphin was pregnant and both mother and unborn calf were successfully refloated and thus saved that day back in June 2012.

For full article see:

29 July 2012

by Joanne O’Brien (GMIT/IWDG), Barry O’Donoghue (NPWS), Isabel Baker and Joanna Barker (SDWF)

A bottlenose dolphin that live-stranded in North Kerry and was refloated, was recently photographed from dolphin tour boats in the Shannon Estuary. This is one of the only times there has been evidence that a refloating attempt was successful.

A bottlenose dolphin live-stranded at Béal, Co. Kerry, on the shores of the Shannon Estuary, on 1 June 2012.  The 3.5m female bottlenose dolphin lay on the sand, 10m from the waterline, but was in perfect condition and had no signs of injury.  She didn’t seem in a very distressed state despite her predicament and her skin was still moist but she was starting to overheat.

Rather than wait for the whale pontoons to arrive from Kilrush, Co. Clare on the other side of the estuary, those present at the stranding decided to try using a tractor equipped with a large transport box on the back to lift her out of the sand and put her slowly into the water. Once in the water, they stabilised the dolphin for a few minutes and allowed her to become acclimatised, before she started to swim away from the shore.  She quickly increased her swimming speed and was observed swimming for about 10 minutes before she was out of view.

On 27 June 2012, the same bottlenose dolphin was photographed from Dolphinwatch Carrigaholt’s tour boat during a dolphin-watching trip. She was with a group of adults with calves and looked to be in good health. Researchers from the Shannon Dolphin and Wildlife Foundation, who monitor the Shannon dolphins, were able to match a photograph taken of the dolphin’s dorsal fin to a photograph taken during the stranding event. She has since been photographed twice from the Kilrush based Dolphin Discovery tour boat on 5 June and 6 June 2012. On all occasions, she was seen in groups of individuals which included some of the same adults with calves. Her presence in these groups and her behaviour within them suggests that she is healthy and well.

Bottlenose dolphins in the Shannon Estuary, note marks on leading animal © Isabell Baker/SDWF

Dorsal fin photographs from the stranding on 1 June 2012 and the first sighting of the same bottlenose dolphin on 27 June 2012

The Shannon Estuary bottlenose dolphin population numbers around 120-140 individuals and is thought to be genetically discrete. The loss of one dolphin, especially an adult female, could have a significant impact on this population, thus highlighting the importance of the prompt action on the shore at Béal.

Dorsal fins images of i) live stranded dolphin and ii) dolphin photographed in the Shannon Estuary © Joanne O’Brien and Isabell Baker

A huge thank you to Breda, Conor and Finbarr Breen, Mike Jo Hennessey, Mark O’Brien and all the other helpful people on the beach who joined in on the rescue.  Thanks also to Neil Cheape who was on his way with the pontoons from Kilrush but was spared a wasted trip thanks to the Breens.  Many thanks to tour boat operators, Geoff and Sue Magee and Geraldine and Gerard Griffin, for their part in this success story.

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