National Parks and Wildlife Service staff on Kangaroo Island put their dolphin rescue skills to the test this week, after receiving a call from a member of the public about a stranded Bottle-nosed dolphin on Island Beach.
The large male dolphin was beached in about 500mm of water and was thrashing about for more than an hour before calming down enough for rangers and field officers to approach safely.
Ranger Matthew Angrave said the dolphin didn’t appear to have any obvious health issues and was most likely hunting fish close to shore when he got caught out by the falling tide and became stuck on the inside of a sand bar running parallel to the beach.
“This is a spot where dolphins are known to get stranded – it’s thought there may have been around 10 similar strandings in the past 15 years,” Mr Angrave said.
“The team was able to carefully shuffle the big male onto a dolphin stretcher – in fact he assisted a bit with his thrashing.
“The team then carried him about 250 metres, out beyond the sandbars, before being satisfied we were in deep enough water to release him.
“By then we were all standing in water up to our chests and being pummelled by the surf. We dropped one side of the stretcher which encouraged the dolphin to swim off.
“One of the team swam a short distance with him to make sure he headed out to sea, rather than returning to the beach due to disorientation.
“We were all pretty chuffed when he swam off with plenty of gusto to hopefully re-join the pod of Bottle-nose dolphins that cruise around the area.
“It was my first dolphin rescue and a really great experience. It was pretty much a textbook rescue, with safety a major consideration and it was wonderful when our careful, considered approach, resulted in a positive outcome.
I became a ranger late last year after two years working as a fire fighter on the island. It’s wonderful to be working in a job where I can have positive conservation outcomes.”