THE dramatic rescue attempt of two bottlenose dolphins in Cudgen Creek almost ended in disaster yesterday when one of the mammals became entangled in a net.

A male adult inshore bottlenose dolphin, first believed to be a mother or her calf that had been residing in a hole adjacent the bridge in Sutherland Street, Kingscliff for almost three weeks, became trapped in the net being used to herd the pair out to sea at about 11.30am DST.

Several divers swam to the dolphin’s aid as it thrashed about in the net and slowly brought the distressed animal back to shore.

The high-pitched calls of the dolphin were clearly audible to the large crowd of spectators as it was attended by Sea World Research and Rescue Foundation staff who worked to keep it calm and hydrated.

The rescue attempt was led by New South Wales Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS), who were concerned over the welfare of the pod of dolphins which had been residing in the creek since Saturday, January 16 and seemed unwilling to leave.

At least two dolphins had been spotted in the estuary every day since then.

Watch the video to the right to see raw footage from the scene of the rescue.

NSW NPWS Tweed area manager Nathan Oliver said they were expecting the two dolphins yesterday to be the mother and calf duo first spotted weeks ago, and the turn of the events had been unexpected.

“It was unanticipated but it still went well, I think,” Mr Oliver said.

“It wasn’t planned that way at first but it wasn’t too bad either. We got them out fine.”

The first dolphin was eventually transported to the Tweed River at Fingal where it was released about 12.40pm.

The second dolphin, another adult male, evaded two attempts to be captured before being netted about 5.45pm and released into the Tweed River shortly after.

“I still say they were successful releases despite what happened,” Mr Oliver said.

The original plan called for the dolphins to be herded out to sea with the net being dragged from a boat and a line of marine rescue workers moving up the sides of the creek behind them.

Mr Oliver said the back-up plan was always for the dolphins to be brought to shore and transported back to the ocean.

NSW NPWS spokesman Lawrence Orel said both mammals appeared in good health.

“We don’t think it will take them long to meet up with the rest of their pod,” Mr Orel said.

The first dolphin suffered a small cut on the side of its body from the net.

Mr Orel said they had been working under the assumption the dolphins in the creek were the mother and calf spotted earlier on.

“We would have gone ahead with the mission no matter what. We had an overall concern for the dolphins given it is so unnatural for a pair like that to be in a specific spot in a creek for so long,” he said.

Mr Orel said it is believed the mother and calf left the creek sometime over the weekend.

More than 50 members of wildlife and marine organisations including Sea World, Australian Seabird Rescue, NSW Maritime, Marine Parks, NSW Fisheries and ORRCA Whale Rescue all helped in yesterday’s effort.

Sea World veterinarian David Blyde made the call for the dolphins to be transported back to sea.

“These male adult dolphins are not dependent on each other,” Mr Blyde said.

“Because of this they were able to be transported separately.”

Mr Blyde said had it been the mother and calf in the creek yesterday they would have been transported together.

“Originally we suspected the calf was stopping the mother from leaving the creek,” Mr Blyde said.

It is believed the pod of dolphins first made their way into Cudgen Creek while tracking food.

As many as five dolphins have been spotted in the creek at once.

The first rescue attempt for the dolphin pod took place on Friday, January 22.

It was feared the dolphins would starve if they stayed in the creek beyond Australia Day.

NSW NPWS is also investigating claims a deceased dolphin had been spotted further inland.

  • Pods of inshore bottlenose dolphins usually range between 1-10 individuals in size.
  • They can hold their breath for up to 15 minutes.
  • Dolphins can grow between 1.9 to 3.9 metres and weight between 150 to 650kg.
  • Their average life expectancy is more than 50 years.

Source: Southern Cross University Whale Research Centre

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