The townspeople were absolutely right to work on successfully saving those trapped dolphins because some survived. Yet a typical answer from an expert, do nothing. He is not responsible either way, so why make a decision to do something when there is a chance you might get sued? There's no law about stupidity against animals.
Dispute emerges over dolphin rescue
Effort by locals may have done more harm than good, whale expert says
JOSH WINGROVE (The Globe and Mail)
With a report from Canadian Press
February 21, 2009
As calls of congratulations poured in, residents of a small Newfoundland village - who say they freed three dolphins trapped in ice - were left defending their efforts yesterday, after a provincial whale expert said the rescue did more harm than good.
The white-beaked dolphins were led out of an icy trap by Seal Cove locals Thursday, but whale expert Wayne Ledwell said they may still have died, spooked by the efforts.
He'd earlier said he believed at least three of the five originally trapped had died, but town residents say there's no evidence of that.
"In my opinion, the chances for survival would be slim," said Mr. Ledwell, who runs a non-profit organization called Whale Release and Stranding. "It's an extreme amount of stress on those animals."
The town's mayor, meanwhile, suggested it was Mr. Ledwell and other experts who failed to act, forcing the hand of the townsfolk, who'd for days heard the dolphins crying.
By Thursday, only three remained, and Mayor Winston May said those three were freed.
"[Mr. Ledwell] couldn't even see the view," said Mr. May, who runs a grocery store.
"I think they got caught with their pants down, and someone's going to have to answer for it," he said of government officials.
"If the rescue effort hadn't been undertaken, those dolphins would be dead now," he said. "We're really proud. Honestly. We feel like we've accomplished something. The people feel good about what we've done."
After the five were first trapped earlier this week, the town's call for help - namely, a government icebreaker - couldn't be met. Government officials said the ship would simply crush the dolphins, and that the best chance for survival would be a weather change forcing ice from the cove.
But as the dolphins' hole got smaller and smaller, and a storm loomed, residents acted on their own. Five men used a 17-foot boat with a 40-horsepower outboard motor to break the ice themselves, and lead the three dolphins to open water.
"The last one, the one that was a bit tired, that one even got out, swam around, came back and looked at the boys in the boat," Mr. May said.
Yesterday, residents saw three dolphins swimming and jumping in the outer bay, which is free of ice. Though they can't be sure they're the same ones ("We'll never know that," Mr. Ledwell said), residents believe they are.
"They're out there in the water right now," said rescuer Brandon Banks, 16. "Better than all of them dying."
Stories of the rescue yesterday made Mr. May and the five rescuers - Mr. Banks, Roger Gavin, Melvin Rice, Rodney Rice and Ruben Giles, each born and raised in the town - local celebrities.
"For the first time in my life I understand what people go through with the paparazzi," Mr. May said last night. "It's unreal."
The town stands by the decision and actions of the five men.
"The dolphins were down there, the poor things, and they were going to die," said Mr. Giles, 46. "It was all about getting the dolphins free. I think we done a good thing. You're always going to get flack, but I think we've done a good thing."