Monday, March 06, 2006

Rotten fate for 40 dolphins

FORTY stripy dolphins which died after stranding themselves on a remote beach in Western Australia's southwest will be left to rot because of the difficulty in accessing the site.Officers from the Department of Conservation and Land Management (CALM) spent an emotional night trying to save nine of the dolphins, which were still alive when rescuers reached the beach. But they failed in their efforts.

A team of 30 CALM officers, volunteers and a local veterinary used quad bikes and walked for up to 5km to locate the mammals, which were spotted from the air over a 30km stretch of beach earlier in the day.

"Physically it was very draining and hard, and not to have a positive result was quite distressing for some of our team," CALM parks and visitor services officer David Meehan said.

CALM spokeswoman Jean Stewart said the dead animals were weighed, measured and sexed, and tissue samples had been taken, but their bodies would not be buried.

"Unfortunately we can't do anything about the remains and carcasses because (the area) is so inaccessible," Ms Stewart said.

The stranding occurred about 100km south of the Dolphin Bay boat ramp in Bussleton, 232km south of Perth, where more than 50 false killer whales beached themselves in June last year.
In April 2005, 13 long-finned pilot whales were rescued and helped back out to sea after a pod of 19 beached themselves in the Busselton area.

Mr Meehan said it was rare to see such a large stranding of stripy dolphins, which were deepwater mammals and rarely spotted close to shore.

"They may wash up in ones or twos but nothing of this magnitude," he said.
Aerial spotters will remain in the area to look out for further strandings.

Quick "Facts about Dolphins"