Thanet volunteers from marine mammal rescue charity British Divers Marine Life Rescue are among a group of 50 who will be taking part in a major training exercise at Herne Bay today (June 24).
The exercise will test their skills in a whale ‘mass stranding’ scenario and will involve several life-size inflatable models of pilot whales being ‘stranded’ on the beach with the volunteers invited to come in to rescue them in simulated conditions.
BDMLR’s Director of Welfare and Conservation Dan Jarvis, who organised the training session said: “These exercises are really important and useful to our volunteers for gaining experience, testing their first aid, assessment, rescue and communication skills, and particularly for our incident coordinators to take charge of organising everything from animal care to emergency services liaison to crowd and media control.
“They don’t happen too often as they’re a huge logistical challenge to set up, and of course we were unable to run them during the pandemic.”
Britain has seen a rise in mass strandings involving pilot whales and sometimes other species in recent years, with one of the largest incidents involving around 100 dolphins in the north of Scotland. There are a variety of reasons why mass strandings can occur, including a sick or injured animal inadvertently leading the others ashore as they try to help it; being frightened by loud underwater noises such as sonar; or simply from becoming disoriented in unfamiliar intertidal or enclosed areas like estuaries and harbours.
Alex Levine, BDMLR’s Area Coordinator for the Kent region, said: “I’m really looking forward to taking on this challenge and seeing how we perform not only as individuals, but working together as a team. This is one of the amazing things about this charity, in that as trained volunteers we can still essentially be strangers to one another, but when called upon in a real-life situation we come together to achieve what is best for these enigmatic creatures.”
Members of the public who find a live stranded dolphin or whale are asked to call BDMLR’s 24hr emergency hotline 01825 765546 immediately for urgent first aid advice and for assistance to be dispatched as soon as possible.