Rescuer's relief as stranded Lough Foyle dolphins saved

A dog walker who discovered and helped refloat two dolphins that had become beached on the shores of Lough Foyle has spoken of her relief at their rescue.

Amanda Magee was walking on the foreshore near Balls Point, Magilligan, County Londonderry, on Monday morning when she came across the stranded Risso’s dolphin.

The species are not are not a common visitor to Northern Ireland and are rarely seen in the north west.

Amanda told BBC News NI she first raised the alarm then spent hours keeping the animals wet before marine experts arrived.

marine expert helps stranded dolphin back to open sea
The area is being monitored because of the potential for a re-stranding [DAERA]

She had gone to the secluded beach at around 10:00 BST with her dogs.

It was low tide and the dolphins had become stranded some distance out, Amanda said.

As she approached, she could see their tails moving and knew she needed to get help.

“I had to come back up as there was no signal. I sent it on Facebook asking if anyone could help,” Amanda said.

She enlisted the help of her daughter Storm, 16, and other people started to arrive in response to her appeal.

“Someone told me what to do, not to put water in their blow hole and keep them wet,” Amanda said.

“There was one we had to push onto its belly. It was on its side a woman told me it would die unless it was on its belly so we had to push it. It was really heavy.

“It took five of us,” she said.

Both mammals, Amanda said, were around 6ft (1.8m) long.

“But one was a bit more scarred, it looked like it had been through the wars”.

She added: “This was the real experience, you could hear them clicking and squeaking beside each other. Their wee eyes and the noises they were making, it was a mad experience”.

Marine experts from the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural arrived to refloat the dolphins mid-afternoon, Amanda said.

“I helped them carry out the first one, they had to float it a bit before it could swim out,” she said.

“I had to go pick up my wee boy from school, but they told me later that evening that they got the second one out and they were out swimming together, it was great”.

'Struggling to breathe'

A Daera spokeswoman said the younger of the two Risso’s was refloated first, she said before an attempt was made to rescue the “older, thinner dolphin”.

“This animal was noticeably underweight and heavily scarred after years of interacting with other dolphins and feeding on squid,” the spokeswoman said.

She added: “To everyone’s surprise, it recovered faster than the younger dolphin and quickly joined the first animal”.

The area, she said is being monitored because of the possibility of a re-stranding.

Mel McKee from the Dog Leap Animal Charity praised the quick action of Amanda and her daughter.

She said they also both worked to “continually splash sea water over the two animals' skin” to keep the animals alive.

"When I got there, the tide was really far out and both animals were really dry, struggling to breathe and looked in a very bad way," Ms McKee said.

She added: "I'm just really thankful that this had a happy ending".