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Last Updated: Friday, 9 July, 2004, 13:10 GMT 14:10 UK
Dolphin ambulance to begin work
Dolphin - generic
About 60% of dolphin and whale strandings in the UK are in Scotland
An ambulance designed to save dolphins and whales has been unveiled at Gamrie Bay in Banff.

The Land Rover Defender will carry veterinary equipment, a winch, searchlights, stretchers, harnesses, an air mattress and flotation pontoons.

It will be operated by the Cetacean Research and Rescue Unit (CRRU) which covers the Moray Firth area.

Statistics show about 60% of the UK's whale and dolphin strandings occur along the coast of Scotland.

The wildlife charity Care for the Wild International has financed the ambulance scheme.

The CRRU receives about 300 call-outs to deal with marine mammal emergencies every year.

Dr Kevin Robinson
The most crucial factors, in terms of assisting this individual, are our speed of response and the accessibility to the animal
Dr Kevin Robinson
The ambulance will be able to locate, treat and refloat stranded marine mammals and also benefit research projects.

Dr Barbara Maas, CRRU chief executive, said its expertise would help prevent hundreds of whale and dolphin deaths.

And CRRU director, Dr Kevin Robinson, said: "Once a whale or a dolphin becomes stranded, the most crucial factors, in terms of assisting this individual, are our speed of response and the accessibility to the animal.

"Now we will have the ability to reach those stranded in the most difficult locations.

Underwater noise

"Thanks to the support of Care for the Wild International, we now have the equipment as well as the expertise to address this problem."

About 27 species of whales, dolphins and porpoises visit the waters surrounding the UK.

But it is not clear why a sizeable number become stranded.

Scientists believe underwater noise can disrupt dolphins' navigational skills, while marine pollution, commercial fishing and climate change are also thought to be contributing factors.

Statistics show about 170 bottlenose dolphins inhabit the Moray Firth during the summer months.

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