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British Divers Marine Life Rescue Courageous Effort to Save Common Dolphin.

On Saturday 22nd June 2002, a small dolphin was reported to be in difficulties in the River Medway (Otterham Quay).

Geoff Hammock and Mark Stevens, of British Divers Marine Life Rescue, went to investigate. When they got there they saw a small common dolphin circling in a very muddy, shallow pool.

Anyone who knows the area will know that the conditions are like. The mud is waist deep, and the dolphin could only be approached via the mud flats (70 yards across).

Geoff and Mark (plus families) watched the small dolphin going round and round as the tide went out. It became clear that the remaining water depth would not be sufficient to keep the animal completely wet until the next high tide, some 9 hrs away.

After approximately 40 minutes of discussion between Geoff, Mark and the locals, a plan was hatched. Geoff and Mark would attempt to walk, crawl and swim to the dolphin. As the mud was so dangerous, both men were tied to ropes that were then attached to Geoff's 4x4. In this way, if they got stuck, Jayne, Geoff's wife, could pull them free. This was a dangerous undertaking.

( Pic : Mark - Left, Geoff - Right )

Slowly Geoff and Mark made their way through the mud channels, whilst Chris, one of the locals, carefully paid out the lifelines.

When they reached the pool of liquid mud, they tried to encircle the dolphin. The dolphin was taking long breaths, as it seemed to lift itself unusually high in the water.
Eventually, Mark was able to grab the dolphin as it swam past. Geoff quickly made his way over to them, and then together, Mark and Geoff struggled to lift the dolphin on to a tarpaulin and float, which they had taken with them. Just as the dolphin was lifted on to the float, it died.

The dolphin was skidded ashore, as Geoff and Mark made their way back slowly to the shore.

Geoff and Mark took the dolphin to Dr. Paul Jepson (veterinary pathologist at the Institute of Zoology, London) that night, as they felt that better results could be obtained from a fresh carcass.

[ Pic : Puncture wound ]

The preliminary results showed that the young female had abscesses throughout her body, which could be felt through the skin

There was a puncture wound under the animal, and Paul thought that the abscesses may have been caused by this. There were also signs that the dolphin had been caught in a gill net at some stage. Mark had assessed the dolphin to be

in moderate condition. Paul agreed with the assessment and also agreed that, if the dolphin had lived, it would not have been a candidate for refloat.

11 cultures were taken from the dolphin, and the results will be available in a few weeks.

The same afternoon, in the same creek, the Fire Service had attempted to rescue a dog from the mud. Their attempt had been called off as it was considered to be "too risky". This demonstrates the incredible effort made by Geoff and Mark, in order to save the dolphin.

Alison Stevens
Treasurer & Secretary
British Divers Marine Life Rescue

Report & Photos Courtesy