Mammal spotted on Marina around 11 a.m.; later, fishermen took it out into sea in boat

Thursday morning was part magical, part strenuously real for fisherfolk around Vivekanandar Illam on Marina Beach.

At around 11 a.m., a dolphin washed ashore, stunning locals, who, because the sea was unusually rough, had not gone on their usual fishing expeditions.

After initial efforts to release the mammal into the sea failed, five youths from Ayothikuppam, a nearby fishing settlement carried it in their boat, and released it deep into the ocean, beyond the turbulence near the shore.

“Initially, we tried five times to release the dolphin in the sea. It was unable to leave the shore because of the choppy waves,” said Manikandan, a 19-year-old fisherman.

Sudesh Khan, another of the five, said, “Today, we were reluctant to go fishing because the sea was rough,” adding that at 2 p.m. however, they had to brave the waves to ensure the dolphin was put safely back into sea.

No official representative from the Wildlife Rescue Centre or the Fisheries department was present at any time between the spotting of the dolphin or its subsequent rescue. The absence of official support and guidance was made conspicuous by the complete chaos that prevailed during the three-hour ordeal.

Word of the dolphin’s arrival quickly spread, and dozens of curious onlookers thronged the spot. The fishermen had placed it in a pool of stagnant water after their initial effort at releasing it failed, and many visitors tried to touch the mammal. Every time the fishermen tried to release it into the water, the crowd scrambled after them, trying to touch it even as it was in the fishermen’s arms.

“It felt like plastic,” said Johnson, an onlooker who managed to touch the mammal. Students from various educational institutions on Kamarajar Salai including University of Madras were among those who tried to get a glimpse of the mammal.

“We waited with bated breath during the rescue mission. We are happy that the mammal was finally rescued. But I am not sure if it is safe now, as the rescue did not seem to be carried out under expert supervision,” said a university student.

As it was being taken on the boat into the sea, the fishermen found that it was injured in the mouth and in one fin. K.V.R.K. Tirunaranan of non-governmental organisation,

The Nature Trust, said, “It is likely to have been injured during the repeated attempts to rescue it.” However, one of the fishermen, Kuppan, who said he had been the first to spot the mammal, said it had been bleeding from the mouth even before the rescue operations began.

K. Rahul, another of the five said, “Its behaviour seemed very friendly.”

“Dolphins are considered friends of fishermen as they are good hunters and serve as indicators to the presence of fish in a spot in the sea,” said G. Kamaraj, a wildlife biologist.

A senior official of the Fisheries department said they would look into some kind of mechanism to rescue stranded mammals in association with other departments such as the Forest department. Officials of the Forest department had, on Thursday, allegedly expressed the need for the Fisheries department to strengthen the mechanisms to rescue mammals that get stranded in rapidly urbanising neighbourhoods.

Some residents said that calls made to government officials evoked poor response. They stressed the need for a toll-free helpline for such emergencies.

Dolphins have been spotted in beaches such as Neelangarai, Mr. Kamaraj said, adding it could have been injured in a case of infighting among the mammals or an accident by a fishing boat. Such incidents are also likely indicators of pollution and indirect effects of global warming, he said.

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