A lifeboat crew has been praised for their heroic efforts in saving a stranded dolphin from almost certain death.
Wildlife photographer, Norma Gleeson, said the Ballycotton lifeboat crew in East Cork deserve huge credit for guiding the distressed mammal back to sea.
Lifeboat coxswain Eolan Walshe said he believes it is the first time a dolphin has come that far into Ballycotton Bay.
“I’ve been involved with the lifeboat here for 27 years and it’s certainly my first time involved in a dolphin rescue,” he said.
“You do see pods of dolphins from time to time in the bay but this is the first time a dolphin has come in that far.
“It took a while to find him and a while to guide him out. But sure you couldn’t leave a creature like that.”
Ms Gleeson was among a group of people on Ballynamona Strand who noticed the dolphin swimming dangerously close to the shore at around 3pm on Sunday.
It is believed the four-to-five foot long juvenile North Atlantic dolphin followed a huge shoal of fish on a high spring tide into the bay.
The high tide covered an area of normally exposed marsh and bog land, and the mammal was in danger of getting stranded in the lagoon close to the Bog Road between Shannagarry and Ballycotton once the tide went out.
Some locals tried to guide it back out but when the dolphin swum further into the lagoon, they alerted Ballycotton Coast Guard, who in turn called the RNLI to help.
Following a tasking from Valentia Marine Rescue Coordination centre, Mr Walshe and his crew responded just after 7pm in the all-weather lifeboat, and deployed four crew in their smaller boarding craft.
Rupert Hugh Jones and Will Sliney jumped into the water and managed to lift the dolphin free.
Neck high in water, they then waded through the water alongside the mammal, gradually coaxing it into a narrow channel which leads to the sea.
“Rupert took the lead and we were careful at the start. But dolphins are social animals,” Mr Sliney said.
“It was fatigued but it was amazing how strong it was once we got it out of the lagoon area.”
The lifeboat crew then used the all-weather lifeboat and the boarding craft to escort the mammal out into the deeper waters of the bay.
Ms Gleeson, who watched the entire rescue operation unfold, said the RNLI crew deserve huge credit.
“We couldn’t believe the effort they put.
“It was actually quite emotional to see the dolphin make it into deeper water,” she said.
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