Spirtle’s Incredible Journey: The Sunburned Dolphin’s Astonishing Recovery After 24 Hours Beached with Terrible Injuries

A bottlenose dolphin has completed a remarkable recovery over the past year from horrific sunburn injuries.

The dolphin – known as Spirtle – was stranded out of the water on mudflats in the Cromarty Firth, Moray, last May.

A couple who had got lost trying to drive to a dolphin-watching spot noticed the stricken animal by chance.

May 2016: Rescuers tended to the dolphin after it suffered sunburn injuries after being stranded out of the water on mudflats

July 2016: The dolphin, known as Spirtle, was let back into the water after being stuck in the Cromarty Firth, Moray, last year

July 2016: Marine researchers have been monitoring her recovery for the past year as part of a photo identification survey

September 2016: Rescuers refloated the female dolphin but did not think she would survive after being stranded for 24 hours

September 2016: It was unclear if she would survive due to her sunburn, as well as severe dehydration and UV damage

Rescuers refloated the female dolphin but did not think she would survive after being stranded for 24 hours.

Marine researchers have been monitoring her recovery for the past year as part of a photo identification survey.

It was unclear if she would survive due to her extensive sunburn, as well as severe dehydration and UV damage.

But scientists were amazed at how well she had recovered when they saw her again last month in the same spot.

Her wound was almost healed and she was behaving like any other five-year-old dolphin.

May 2017: Scientists were amazed at how well she had recovered when they spotted her again last month in the same spot

May 2017: Her wound has now almost healed and she has been behaving like any other five-year-old dolphin, experts say

May 2017: The Scottish Marine Animal Stranding Scheme said it was ‘a miracle’ that she had been found in the first place

A researcher from the University of Aberdeen said: ‘When we first saw her in July, due to the extensive sunburn, dehydration and UV damage from the stranding, we weren’t positive about her survival.

Volunteers help the dolphin after she got stranded last May

‘However by September we could see the healing white granulating tissue and new normal pigmented skin and our hopes were raised.’

Dr Andrew Brownlow from the Scottish Marine Animal Stranding Scheme, said it was ‘a miracle’ she had been found in the first place.

A couple spotted Spirtle after setting out to go dolphin-watching at Chanonry Point in northern Scotland and getting lost, ending up at the Cromarty Firth instead.

Spirtle lives in a special conservation area in the North Sea, along with around 200 other bottlenose dolphins.

She is part of a group of dolphins that include her sister Honey and their mother Porridge, and are usually found in the Moray Firth.

Following her rescue on May 29, Spirtle wasn’t seen again until July, when researchers spotted her distinctive injuries. At the time, she was on the periphery of her pod.

Now, Spirtle has reunited with her friends and has been spotted helping out babysitting her big sister Honey’s calf and frolicking with a male dolphin, Foo.

The researchers are hoping this tough little dolphin will soon have a baby Spirtle of her own.

Fascinating pictures show a bottlenose dolphin’s miraculous recovery – two years after suffering horrific sunburn injuries.

The dolphin – known as Spirtle – was stranded out of the water on mudflats in the Cromarty Firth, Moray, in 2016.

Rescuers refloated the female dolphin but didn’t think she would survive after being stranded for 24 hours with extensive sunburn and severe dehydration.

Spirtle the bottlenose dolphin managed to survive this extreme bout of sunburn

She was stranded on shore for more than 24 hours when she suffered the sunburn

Over the past two years, Spritle’s skin has managed to recover and she is behaving normally

But new images have revealed how the six-year-old dolphin’s injuries have continued to heal – more than two years later.

University of Aberdeen scientists and Whale and Dolphin Conservation field officer Charlie Phillips have been monitoring her ongoing recovery.

Mr Phillips took the latest image of Spirtle close to Fort George, near Ardersier, on the Moray Firth.

Dr Barbara Cheney, a research Fellow at the Lighthouse Field Station, University of Aberdeen, said: ‘Spirtle was in a group with four other dolphins near the Sutors of Cromarty last Friday.

‘It is difficult to know exactly how her recovery is going as we are of course judging only on photographs and her behaviour.

‘But we weren’t optimistic when we first saw her two months after the stranding in July 2016 when we saw the extent of her wound and the damage to her skin.

‘However, since then we have been happily surprised by the progress of her healing, and when we spotted her last Friday the wound was completely healed over.

‘Also when we saw her initially after the stranding she was often on her own, but now she is interacting more with other dolphins and her behaviour is what we would expect to see from any other six-year-old dolphin.’

Sia

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