A DRAMATIC rescue has taken place to ensure the struggling River Dee dolphin can return to open water.
People across the UK have been monitoring the efforts of the injured mammal to return to sea ever since it was first sighted in Flintshire on Monday.
The common dolphin was lifted aboard a Flint RNLI lifeboat on a stretcher after it was reported to be in difficulty near Saltney Ferry shortly after 11.30am yesterday.
It was later transported out to sea while being observed by members of the British Divers Marine Life Rescue on board who were closely monitoring the dolphin.
The dolphin was then released around North Rhyl flats following fears it could again become stranded if it was set free in shallower waters.
Speaking as the rescue took place, RNLI Lifeboat operations manager Alan Forrester said: “The dolphin is a fair size, so we will go at a very slow pace until we reach deeper waters, where we will be met by the Rhyl all-weather RNLI lifeboat.
“It has been a busy summer for the crew across Wales but this is certainly one of our more unusual rescues.”
Nicknamed Dave, efforts to determine the gender of the wayward dolphin have in fact proved it should be more aptly named Davina.
It had suffered some minor injuries to its tail but was being treated by its rescuers as it sped off in the lifeboat with water being poured over it constantly.
Steve O’Connor, an RNLI officer who attended the scene said that Davina’s condition had been positive.
While awaiting to be transported to sea on the lifeboat he said: “She’s breathing fine, some minor tail injuries but nothing to worry about.
“All things considered, she’s doing really well.”
Hundreds of people had lined the banks of the River Dee over the last few days to watch Davina’s progress after she was first spotted swimming in waters off Connah’s Quay.
But after several attempts to reach the sea under its own steam, lifeboat volunteers stepped in after the dolphin became stuck on a sandbank near to Airbus UK’s loading facility.
A ‘DaveDaDolphin’ twitter feed was also set up as news of the dolphin’s progress was screened nationwide, but, despite claims it had been ‘fin-napped’, Davina was finally helped on its way by rescuers yesterday afternoon.
Lee and Angela Cocoran, from Stoke, who are currently on holiday in the area, were excited to see the dolphin.
Angela said: “It's absolutely amazing to see a dolphin.
“To see that it has been rescued and sent back out to sea safely is wonderful.
“We only came to see Flint Castle but once we heard about the dolphin we made our way over.
“It's on my ‘bucket list’ to swim with dolphins but to see one up close like this is just as good.”
Common dolphins can reach speeds of up to 35 mph. It is believed Davina may have got lost after chasing fish from the Irish Sea.