Seventeen dolphins in the news in Spain

by Lorraine Williamson

FERROL – A pod of 17 dolphins was at risk of becoming stranded in the bay of A Malata near the coastal town of Ferrol in Galicia. But thanks to the efforts of volunteers, they were saved. 

The common dolphin, also known as the bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus), is found in temperate and tropical waters around the world, including certain regions of Galicia, Spain. However, this species is not adapted to shallow waters such as those in the estuaries in Galicia. Consequently, this often leads to strandings. 

Common dolphins have been known to occasionally become accidentally stranded on beaches and in shallow estuaries. This can happen for a variety of reasons, such as;

  • tracking prey close to shore
  • being hit by unusual tides or currents
  • illnesses or injuries that reduce their ability to swim

What to do if you see a stranded dolphin? 

If you ever find a stranded dolphin or other marine mammal on a beach, it is critical to contact authorities or wildlife experts immediately to provide the appropriate assistance. Without the proper knowledge and equipment, attempting to help them back into the water can be harmful to both the animal and those involved. 

Thanks to the joint efforts of the volunteers, members of the Civil Protection of Ferrol and the professionals of the Environmental Unit (UMA), a larger ecological drama could be avoided. 

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Related: Sailboat sunk off Spanish coast after orca attack 

Touching behaviour after the loss of a young one 

Dolphins are known for their intelligence and strong social bonds. But it is less known that they can also feel deep emotions. A recent video shared by Faro de Vigo shows that they do show a way of grieving. The images show the heartbreaking behaviour of a dolphin mother. She is seen pushing her dead calf along with her snout. It is almost as if she is trying in vain to bring the young back to life. 

Experts from CEMMA, who specialise in marine biology, emphasise the intensity of this mourning: “The pain the mother feels can be so overwhelming. She can keep her deceased young for days, if not weeks, until the body has completely decomposed.” 

The footage was captured by José Alonso Sánchez. He had who initially reported two adult dolphins bringing a dead cub to the surface. Given the sensitive nature of this situation, biologists are now calling on skippers and other people in the ría de Vigo to keep their distance. This is to respect the grieving process of these animals. At the same time, anyone who notices the dolphins is asked to contact emergency services. They can do this via 112 or directly to CEMMA on 686 98 90 08. 

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