This Thing Called Courage

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Dramatic Rescue of Dolphins and Whale





This is from today's Boston Globe


By Beth Daley, Globe Staff
In the middle of blizzard-like conditions on Cape Cod yesterday, The International Fund for Animal Welfare got a distress call: Four disorientated common dolphins were entering a narrow creek off Wellfleet Harbor. Then this morning, there was another call: A minke whale was also swimming nearby - and appeared trapped in the shallow water.
It was all but certain they would be stranded on oyster beds when the tide went out – often a death knell for dolphins and whales on Cape Cod.
But in a happy ending to one of the hundreds of marine mammal strandings that take place on Cape Cod every winter, all the animals appear to have safely made it to open water.<. Warming up the dolphins At daybreak today, Wellfleet Harbormaster Michael Flanagan steered a small boat behind the minke whale, which prompted the animal to swim to open water. While it’s illegal for boaters to do this, IFAW marine mammal manager Katie Touhy said that Flanagan has great experience with strandings and probably saved the minke’s life because the tide was going out. Also at daybreak, volunteers had gathered at the Creek to monitor the dolphins until IFAW’s Marine Mammal Rescue and Research team could get there. (The weather was too severe to go out yesterday). When the team arrived, one dolphin was stranded in the creek and the three others stranded within minutes in Chipman’s Cove across from the town pier. “We had a lot of volunteers out there but the animals were super cold,’’ said Touhy. The dolphins body temperature was dipping so quickly, the rescue team couldn’t draw blood (needed to see if they were healthy enough to be released) because the blood flow to their fins and flukes had slowed so dramatically. The group of rescuers carefully carried the dolphins on stretchers to a warm IFAW trailer where they spent several hours warming them up. Then, they drove the trailer to Herring Cove in Provincetown to let the dolphins out. In the trailer, the workers could hear the dolphins whistling – a good sign. After carefully placing the dolphins on foam at the waters’ edge together so the social animals could communicate, each one was brought into the water until it was deep enough for them to could swim. One was able to be outfitted with a satellite tag from the New England Aquarium.
“It was fantastic,’’ said Touhy. “It was great that it happened in the daylight – this often takes place at night – and we could see them visually swimming away.”

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