Members of the BDMLR were yet again in action today, this time assisting a young orca which had become stranded in the Orkney Islands.
The Orkney BDMLR Marine Mammal Medics responded to reports of a live stranded dolphin at the Bay of Newark near Tres Ness, Sanday, this morning, but on arrival discovered that the animal in question was actually a juvenile orca, some three to four years old, and around three-and-a-half metres long.
Thankfully, the mammal was in good condition, but lying on its side in the surf parallel to the sea, with the tide rapidly coming in.
Local residents responded to calls for assistance, and together they managed to get the animal righted, to aid its breathing and ensure the blowhole was out of the water, and then as the tide came in, helping to lift the young orca, the MMMs were able to rotate it to face the incoming tide and get it on to their new dolphin stretcher.
Once upright, the orca started lifting its head clear to breathe, and then, after about an hour, it suddenly took matters into its own ‘fins’ and made a move to swim off. Unable to hold the animal anymore, the team lowered the stretcher and the orca swam straight out towards the open sea.
It was seen to roll a couple of times, and then submerged and continued straight out away from the beach. After monitoring for an hour, the Marine Mammal Medics were confident the animal was no longer in the location, and were hopeful it will stay out, but they will be checking the coastline over the coming days to be sure.
Orca are seen fairly regularly around the Orkney Islands, but standings are incredibly rare, and it is thought this represented the first successful refloat of an orca by BDMLR in the UK.
The BDMLR would like to thank MMMs Russell Neave and Imogen Sawyer, and Sandy residents Colin and Heather Headworth, Cath Swift and Simon Oldfield, Anna Halford and Martin Sawyer for all their assistance, as well as HM Coastguard for advice.
BDMLR’s Dan Jarvis said: “A huge thanks to everyone who has supported the Orkney team recently and enabled us to purchase much-needed dolphin stretchers. This was their first outing and highlighted how important this kit is. We really would not have been able to refloat an animal of this size without them.
“However, more personal safety kit is desperately needed to aid with rescues and ensure safety of those assisting. If you would like to help fund this and other essential kit for the team, please do donate via the JustGiving page