Saturday 17 November 2018

Dead dolphin discovered in River Lee - just hours after heroic effort by fire fighters to save it

Cork City Fire Brigade assigned a unit from Angelsea Street and firefighters were able to carefully clear the branches and create an escape route for the dolphin
Cork City Fire Brigade assigned a unit from Angelsea Street and firefighters were able to carefully clear the branches and create an escape route for the dolphin
Ralph Riegel

Ralph Riegel

HEROIC efforts by Cork City Fire Brigade members to free a dolphin trapped in tree branches and river debris ended in tragedy.

Cork fire fighters successfully managed to free the adult dolphin after being called to a section of the River Lee quays on Sunday night - but the body of a dolphin was found near Clarke's Bridge just over 12 hours later.

It is unclear if it is the same dolphin.

However, marine experts believe that it likely is the same mammal who may have been ill or injured after being trapped in the debris before being freed by the heroic fire fighters.

Pedestrians spotted the mammal's body near the bridge in the city centre shortly after 10am today, just a few hundred metres from where the trapped dolphin had been freed the previous evening.

The body of the dolphin was recovered from the river and will now be studied by marine experts to determine its precise cause of death.

Experts will also try to determine the general state of health of the dolphin - and clues as to why it left the open harbour to travel so far up Cork's quays.

Speaking to RTE Radio One's News at One, Victor Shine of Cork City Fire Brigade said the crew were very disappointed to hear the news. "Last night we got a call to attend to a trapped dolphin, up towards the Western Road part of the city.

"A number of our crew entered the water and freed the dolphin, they basically pointed the dolphin in the direction of the open water and the dolphin appeared to make his way there.

"However, overnight the dolphin made his way back to pretty much the same place he had got trapped and got trapped again.

"We recovered the dolphin this morning and handed the remains over to the Department of Zoology at UCC," Mr Shine continued.

"They will now carry out a post mortem or investigation."

Mr Shine said they have had a number of scenarios where different forms of sea life have come up the River Lee from the harbour.

"Cork Harbour is a fantastic location," he said, "and we have lots of different fish coming into the harbour.

"Then different sea creatures and mammals are following the fish in. This dolphin obviously came too far up the river and got stuck.

"The guys are very disappointed. We'd like to have seen it rescued and safe."

Rescue

The dolphin had apparently become disoriented and swam beyond the upper reaches of Cork harbour into the lower, narrower reaches of the River Lee.

A maze of low-lying tree branches trapped the dolphin close to the river bank - and the distressed mammal was unable to escape them and make its way back to open water.

A pedestrian spotted the trapped dolphin and realising its distress, alerted the emergency services shortly after 7pm on Sunday evening.

Cork City Fire Brigade assigned a unit from Angelsea Street and firefighters were able to carefully clear the branches and create an escape route for the dolphin.

The dolphin, uninjured by its ordeal, was able to safely swim to clear, open water.

It had been presumed the mammal was able to regain the open harbour.

"There is no such thing as an ordinary day in this job," one fire fighter acknowledged.

Fire crews were initially delighted the dolphin was able to make good its escape back to open water - but were heartbroken at the news it was later found dead.

Dolphins, along with seals, are a common site in Cork harbour where they often travel up towards the River Lee in search of food.

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