The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) has some advice for you all: Do not put beached dolphins back into the sea.
A couple of dolphins were found beached on the shores of western Wales in the past few weeks. In an attempt to do the good thing, members of the public, upon seeing them, tried to move them back in the water, the general idea being that they can swim away and live out a happy, beach-free life. The RSPCA, however, notes that this is the “wrong thing to do for the animals, and their welfare.”
There are a couple of reasons for this. Referencing the case of an emaciated, unwell dolphin that beached itself in Wales, an RSPCA officer, having inspected photographs of the cetacean, noted that they should have instead been called so they could take care of it.
The underlying point is that, contrary to the popular belief that beaching incidences are always accidental navigation errors, it could instead be because the animals in question are sick or dying. Consequently, medical assistance is required or their demise, in or out of the water, is all but assured.
Indeed, that particular dolphin was later found dead further down the coast after being returned to the water. At the same time, touching a sickly dolphin can put the people at risk of catching whatever it was that made them poorly in the first place.
In addition, if the animal is sick or even dies, it still proves to be useful to the authorities. They can examine it, pre- or post-mortum, figure out why it ended up taking this grim path in the first place, and better inform the scientific community in the future.
“In many ways, it is a source of great pride that people across West Wales love wild animals and want to help,” Ellie West, an RSPCA animal collection officer, said in a statement.
“But returning a beached cetacean to the sea can be hugely counter-productive. People are obviously well-meaning in doing this – but usually it is the wrong thing to do for the animals, and their welfare.”
Generally speaking, when it comes to animals, you shouldn’t do anything if you aren’t entirely sure what the correct course of action is. At least in this case, the actions of the public, while erroneous, had good intentions.
This has echoes of an incident in Yellowstone National Park in 2016, when some tourists put a baby bison in the back of their car because they assumed its mother had abandoned it and that it would freeze to death. Sadly, the calf had to be put down after the herd it was thought to belong to rejected it.