Saturday, December 29, 2007

Pregnant dolphin washed up on UK shore

The 3.2m (10.5ft) long female bottlenose dolphin weighed 370kg and was carrying a female calf. It washed up on the shore of the Lizard.

Experts said there was no obvious cause of death but it could have been sick and had trouble feeding.

A team of 10 volunteers helped retrieve the animal and a post-mortem examination is being carried out at laboratories in Truro.

It means that we've lost two generations of a scarce animal in one stranding
Jan Loveridge

Nick Tregenza, a local expert on cetaceans, said the animal could have belonged to a rare pod of eight dolphins living off the coast of Cornwall or much larger and different groups that exist further from the UK.

He said: "Although we obviously don't want to see animals lost from either population, even a single animal lost from the inshore group threatens its long term survival.

"Over the last 10 years, the group has been just hanging on to survival and three have been recorded dead this year alone."

Mr Tregenza said dolphins off the Cornish coast faced the threat of pollution and being caught in fishing gear.

Female dolphins become pregnant once in three years. One in 10 will be pregnant.

Jan Loveridge, marine strandings network co-ordinator for Cornwall Wildlife Trust, said: "We were very concerned to see this dolphin because, although we record so many, it's always particularly sad to find pregnant females, especially when it's one of this species.

"It means that we've lost two generations of a scarce animal in one stranding."

Quick "Facts about Dolphins"