Porpoise Rescue Attempt Near Grange Farm Beach

After a live stranded adult female Harbour porpoise has been found by a member of the public, Island rescue sprang into action

This in from Stephan Voigt, IoW BDMLR Assistant Area Coordinator, in his own words – Ed.

On late Tuesday afternoon, the 13th September 2011, a live stranded adult female Harbour porpoise has been found by a member of the public, stranded on the beach at Grange Farm near Brighstone.

Porpoise Rescue Attempt Near Grange Farm BeachRSPCA and Solent Coastguard arrived at the scene first followed by the Isle of Wight team of specially-trained British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) Marine Mammal Medics.

BDMLR Assistant Area Coordinator Stephan Voigt and Dave Evans were leading the rescue efforts assisted by medics Naomi White, Will Cox, Chris Archbold, Tara Hayter, Peter Truscott and Kerstin Voigt.

Harbour porpoises background
Harbour porpoises (Phocoena phocoena) are one of six known species of porpoise being the smallest of marine mammals or cetaceans in our coastal waters. As its name implies, Harbour porpoises stay usually close to coastal areas or river estuaries. Adults of both sexes grow between 1.4m to 1.9m and weigh between 61kg and 76kg.

Whales, dolphins and porpoises, also called cetaceans, are mammals like humans and many scientific evidence has been already found proving a very high level of intelligence and cognitive abilities similar to apes, elephants and even humans.

The team’s priorities
The priority of the teams efforts was it to give the animal psychological support, to stabilise the animal in a comfortable and appropriate way on an air bed to avoid further injuries and to keep it cool and wet. The following assessment of her medical condition did reveal only superficial stranding related and partly old skin injuries involving fluke, pectoral fins, head and mouth. None of the injuries were considered severe or problematic.

The animal did appear to be in a moderate nutritional state, at this time still being considered as suitable for a re-flotation attempt. With assistance of local vet Sarah Forster and the BDMLR Senior Veterinary Coordinator James Barnett, who gave advice via mobile phone, the animal did receive first aid medication and was transferred eventually on an air bed by car to Appley Beach, as a re-flotation attempt at Grange Farm was considered too dangerous to rescue team and animal.

Difficult decision
Despite favourable conditions, the re-flotation attempt unfortunately failed, and after six hours of fighting and intensive rescue effort to keep the animal alive, the difficult decision was made to end the suffering of this harbour porpoise and to put her to sleep. The body of the animal was transferred to the Institute of Zoology in London to undergo a postmortem examination, which will hopefully reveal the cause of this unfortunate event.

If you see a live stranded marine mammal: What to do
If you find a live stranded marine mammal, then please note the place, the state of the tide and any injuries you can see without getting close and call the National Hotline number 01825 765546 during office hours, or call 07787 433412 out of hours. You will then be advised on what to do and a team of trained BDMLR medics will be mobilised as soon as possible.

We would like to use this opportunity to thank the vet Sarah Forster, RSPCA, Solent Coastguard and all helpers at Grange Farm, who all did a fantastic job.

Click on images for full-sized versions.

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Friday, 16th September, 2011 4:49pm


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Filed under: Environment, Isle of Wight News, South Wight

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What a sad and unfortunate ending to this. However, well done to all those who obviously did their very best to help this beautiful creature.