There are few things sadder than images of marine animals washed up on beaches.
Most of us, if we saw a dolphin still alive in shallow water, would try to do everything we could to help it swim out into the ocean.
But the RSPCA has come out with some new advice: please don’t help beached dolphins swim out to sea.
This comes after struggling dolphins were found beached on the shores of western Wales in the last month. Members of the public tried to help them swim out into the water, assuming they were lost. But the RSPCA thinks the opposite, saying it's the “wrong thing to do for the animals, and their welfare”.
Apparently dolphins often intentionally beach themselves if they are severely unwell or close to death. RSPCA officers have implored the public to instead contact them so they can come and take care of the situation.
In the case of the dolphins found in Wales, one was found dead nearby a few days later. But had the RSPCA intervened, perhaps it could have been saved. There’s also the matter of diseases or viruses. Given that dolphins are mammals, humans can easily catch ailments from them.
Ellie West, an RSPCA animal collection officer, said in a statement:
In many ways, it is a source of great pride that people across West Wales love wild animals and want to help
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.
The best thing to do if you see any struggling animal is to seek advice immediately and not assume you know what’s best for it. The animal kingdom is more complex than most people imagine!