Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Two rare striped dolphins strand in Cornwall

Death of two rare striped dolphins in Cornwall may be due to disease
June 2012. The recent death of two striped dolphins found near Fowey in Cornwall has raised concern among two local marine conservation organisations - British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) and Cornwall Wildlife Trust's Marine Strandings Network (MSN) - who work together to study and protect cetaceans around our coast. Striped dolphins are a species rarely seen on the Cornish coast, more commonly found in southerly regions such as the Mediterranean.

They first became aware of the strandings when Dave Jarvis, Director of BDMLR, received a call from local residents in Fowey, who had found the first dolphin stranded alive on the beach at Coombe Haven. The local residents attempted to assist the dolphin by putting it back in the sea, but sadly it stranded again and died before rescuers could reach the spot.
BDMLR vet Darryl Thorpe, and volunteers Emily Jenkinson and David and Hilary Pugh-Jones, examined the animal. Darryl reports,
Broken jaw
"It had a severely broken jaw, probably due to being dashed against rocks in the rough seas. It was also malnourished and would have had to be euthanased if it hadn't already died, as it wouldn't have survived long in that state."
BDMLR alerted the Trust's Marine Strandings Network Co-ordinator, Jan Loveridge, and the female dolphin was examined, photographed and recorded by volunteers at the scene for the MSN's research into dolphin deaths. The recorder, Faye Archell, found a number of other lesions on the dolphin's body, including deep rake (teeth) marks inflicted by a bottlenose dolphin.
Whale lice
Faye explains "This has become a common, if surprising, sight in Cornwall in stranded cetaceans and just shows how aggressive bottlenose dolphins can be towards their own and other species. Other lesions in the skin were colonised by tiny long whale lice - fascinating creatures only 5mm in size that live out their lives on dolphins and whales by hanging on with their enormous hooked claws. Pox marks were also seen on the skin, suggesting the possibility of underlying disease, together with a possible rope mark on the tail fluke."
The MSN's advisor and pathologist James Barnett was called to the scene, with fellow scientist Nick Davison, who volunteered his time to assist. Despite the bad weather, they managed to retrieve the animal with the help of volunteers and took it away for a full post-mortem examination at the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency, Polwhele, where they are based.

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