INFORMATION has come to light regarding the picture published in last week’s Guide & Gazette of a sea creature washed ashore at Easthaven.
It showed what we thought to be a harbour porpoise, but beyond that, little was known. Fortunately a local expert got in touch with us.
Allan Muir, a marine mammal medic with the Shanwell Wildlife Rescue Trust (SWRT) emailed to say we were correct in our deduction and that it was a harbour porpoise.
Apparently this has happened before, and quite recently. Allan explained: “This is the second such animal to have washed up in the last week or so. The first was at East Links in Arbroath on February 16.
“The animal was stranded alive and SWRT were called to give assistance. Marine medics were despatched, but unfortunately the animal had expired before our arrival.
“The local authority had recovered the body from the beach, but SWRT transported it to the Sea Mammal Research Unit at St Andrews.
“Both animals showed signs of being attacked by dolphins. You will notice the ‘rake’ marks on both bodies. Rake marks are caused by a dolphin’s teeth when harassing both porpoises and other dolphins.
“The reasons for dolphins attacking their smaller cousins is unclear, but is thought to be a combination of competition for food and the teaching of hunting techniques to younger dolphins.
“It is a sad fact that when dolphins move into a territory it is inevitable that the harbour porpoise numbers will decline.
“I should add that it is unlikely that the dolphins would eat the porpoises and the damage suffered by the animal is likely caused by other scavengers.”
This week the SWRT launched an appeal to raise £7,000 to purchase and equip a marine mammal rescue trailer with all the specialist equipment needed to provide a rapid professional response to the stranding of any large sea mammals. The team hope to buy dry suits, life jackets, veterinary equipment, inflatable pontoons, generators, outside lighting and a water pump.
Allan said: “Please consider making a donation or organising a fundraiser to help us raise this £7,000 before the return of the Tay dolphins in 2012.”
For more information on the work of the Shanwell Wildlife Rescue Trust visit http://swrt.btck.co.uk/DolphinRescueSection.