BY SEAN HILLEN
FOLLOWING the recent deaths of 13 pilot whales stranded at Ballyness beach, Falcarragh, a group of local people underwent specialized training this week as ‘first responders’ in best-practice whale rescue methods.
Inspired by wildlife enthusiasts Gareth and Amanda Doherty at Selkie Sailing, who were dismayed that the whales were simply left to suffocate on land over five days, the group of men and women were taught proper ways of helping refloat such stranded mammals.
Using special equipment, including a life-size, inflatable pilot whale used for simulating saving techniques, the practical, hands-on training was conducted by Simon Berrow, founder, and Paul Kiernan, welfare officer, of the national Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG).
Clare-based Berrow is a full-time lecturer at the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology teaching on the Applied Freshwater and Marine degree course and project manager of the Shannon Dolphin and Wildlife Foundation.
Following the slow deaths of the 13 whales at Ballyness, the ‘North West Whale & Dolphin Support Group’ was formed at a meeting at Teac Jack.
Deputy Pearse Doherty, who has submitted formal questions in the Dáil to Ministers regarding the treatment of stranded whales and other cetaceans, attended that meeting, saying it was important the new group worked with current organisations such as the IWDG and the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS). He suggested establishment of ‘first responders’ in the local area, recognized by the NPWS and IWDG – people who could take the lead in developing situations.
The mass stranding at Ballyness was the 13th such stranding this year in Donegal, including a sperm whale off Machaire Rabhartaigh beach.
Around 32 other whales that died off Rutland Island two years before were cut up and transported to Cavan where they were incinerated.
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