Learn how to help islands’ water wildlife

BDMLR volunteers learn first-aid techniques for a stranded dolphin during a previous Marine Mammel Medic training course held in Leverburgh. SP168
BDMLR volunteers learn first-aid techniques for a stranded dolphin during a previous Marine Mammel Medic training course held in Leverburgh. SP168
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THE number of oil-soaked seabirds recently washed up on island shores has illustrated the voluntary work undertaken by charity British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR).

However, it is not only our injured or troubled feather friends; whales, dolphins, porpoises, seals, indeed any marine animal in difficulties come under the charity’s remit – and the search is out for more island volunteers to join the local team as they strive to save the lives.

Sandy MacDonald, of the Western Isles BDMLR branch, explains: “As a result of the number of marine animal strandings we have been having and the shortage of volunteers we currently have in the islands we have organised marine mammal rescue training courses in Stornoway, on Saturday, February 4, and in Eriskay on Saturday March 24.”

Every year the charity trains over 400 volunteer Marine Mammal Medics, and by taking part in the up-coming training courses, you too could be prepared and ready for the next call, armed with the knowledge and practical know-how needed to safely help our coastal wildlife.

The one day course runs from 9.30am until 5pm and is split into two sessions, as Sandy continues: “The morning session will cover marine mammal biology, species ID, physiology, first aid, assessment and rescue techniques.

“The afternoon then consists of three practical exercises using life-sized water filled models of a seal pup, a Common dolphin and a Pilot whale.

“The first will show how to safely handle, assess and lift seal pups. The second shows handling, lifting and first aid techniques for dolphins and during the third exercise we will also be showing how to re-float the two tonne Pilot whale model using our special refloatation pontoons.”

No previous experience or knowledge is required before taking part in the training sessions and you do not need to be able to dive to take part.

“There may be a small number of spare wetsuits and drysuits available for those booking in advance although it is highly advisable to have your own so you can be ready to help with any strandings after doing the course,” adds Sandy.

For more information about the BDMLR and to book a place on the upcoming courses in Stornoway and Eriskay, please visit the training section at www.bdmlr.org.uk