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Minke whale rescue in Skye
A young whale has been released into the sea after becoming stranded in an island loch. The 12ft, female minke whale, named "Coral" by her rescuers, became stuck on the shores of Loch Dunveggan on the Isle of Skye after high tide.
A passer-by found the year and a half-old whale calf high and dry and motionless on the shores of the sea loch. After the alarm was raised, a team of rescuers from Skye was on the scene within 20 minutes. Marine wildlife experts from the Cetacean Research & Rescue Unit (CRRU) in Aberdeenshire and British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) in Caithness were alerted and a special floating pontoon was transported to the island as members of the public and SSPCA officers were advised how to stabilise the distressed infant.
The rescue pontoon is made up of a large stretcher and flotation devices that fill-up with air. A team of eight men managed to roll the one and a half tonne whale on to the stretcher and the pontoons were then inflated, while volunteers kept Coral moist and manipulated her muscles, which had become cramped during her ordeal.
A 30-hour rescue operation ensued, which involved getting the young whale through an entire night in a force 7 storm. Then came the daunting task of transporting Coral over 6 miles to the open sea.
Dr. Kevin Robinson, the CRRU’s national director and co-ordinator for Scotland, explained: "It was impossible to tow the young whale on its pontoon for such a distance, so we needed to find an alternative solution and fast. With the help of a local fishing vessel - the 'Karen Ann' and her crew - a crane was used to hoist Coral and her pontoon onto the deck". Said Dr Robinson: "We knew the pontoon would support the weight of the whale, but this was still a very nerve-wracking operation, as such a technique had never been used before in the UK".
Coral was released near to a group of whales, and was last seen swimming off towards the Western Isles. Alistair Jack, for British Divers, commented: "Before she set off she swam round the team assisting her and then headed to join two other Minke whales, one of whom we believe was her mother. We are all absolutely delighted that the operation has been a success".
"We are both elated and exhausted!" said Dr Robinson.Back to news