South Scotland

Stranded porpoises prompt Solway Firth rescue

Porpoise rescue Image copyright Stewart Bryden
Image caption Medics were sent to the scene after reports of a porpoise "thrashing about" in shallow water

Marine experts have saved two stranded porpoises in a potentially dangerous operation on the Solway Firth.

A member of the public spotted one of them "thrashing about" and two others believed to be already dead near Torduff Point near Gretna.

British Divers Marine Life Rescue was alerted at about 14:00 on Monday and sent medics to the "mass stranding".

They were able to refloat the two adult porpoises involved but a juvenile had to be "humanely put to sleep".

Coastguards in Belfast received the call and sent teams from Kirkcudbright and Annan along with Nith Inshore Rescue to assist in the operation in hazardous quicksand.

Image copyright Stewart Bryden
Image caption The operation took several hours as attempts were made to refloat the mammals

A local resident with a quad bike also offered assistance.

"The animals were actually stranded very far from the water and there was no way of picking them up and taking them there," explained Corinne Gordon, advanced marine animal medic with BDMLR.

"It was extremely dangerous for our medics - the mud was just turning into quicksand - so we had to have assistance from the coastguard for medic safety.

"It was a very dangerous situation, the medics were in full protective clothing."

The coastguards and inshore rescue team were able to take the medics out to the animals.

Image copyright Stewart Bryden
Image caption Rescue teams described the operation as "very dangerous" due to quicksand in the area

The quad bike and trailer were then used to try to get all of the porpoises back into the water.

"Refloating an animal does take time," explained Ms Gordon.

"If the animal has been lying on its side it has lost its equilibrium we need to restore that once the animal is in the water."

They took all three porpoises out and successfully refloated the adults but the juvenile continued to turn back and get stranded.

Image copyright Stewart Bryden
Image caption Two of the porpoises were refloated but the youngest one had to be put down

A final attempt in deeper waters - following advice from a senior vet - also failed.

"We tried absolutely everything we could," said Ms Gordon.

"It really was the best decision for the animal. It was taken to a local vet and very humanely put to sleep."

An autopsy will be carried out at a later date to try to establish the cause of the incident which Ms Gordon said was rare.

"We have had porpoise strandings but it has mainly been one," she said. "We don't have a lot of records of mass strandings."

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