Page last updated at 14:42 GMT, Tuesday, 6 October 2009 15:42 UK

Whale sound used in mammal rescue

Whale in Loch Eil
The mammal is believed to be a northern bottlenose whale

The first UK attempt has been made to prompt a whale to safety by playing the sounds of killer whales underwater.

Conservation groups used the technique in Loch Eil, near Fort William, on Sunday after reports the mammal had been trapped since Tuesday.

The whale, which rescuers believe is a female northern bottlenose, was persuaded to enter Loch Linnhe.

It was later sighted near narrows, past which the loch expands southwards into the sea.

Scottish SPCA Inspector Dawna Connolly co-ordinated the rescue, assisted by the St Andrews Sea Mammal Research Unit, the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, British Divers Marine Life Rescue and the local coastguard and sailing club.

For now, all we can do is hope that tides, luck and determination will help this whale to safety
Inspector Dawna Connolly
Scottish SPCA

"So far the rescue has been a success as we persuaded her to move into Loch Linnhe and as of Monday night she was only a hundred metres from the Corran Narrows," she said.

"If she can make it beyond the narrows, there's a good chance she'll return to the sea.

"However, there are no guarantees she won't turn around or run out of energy and beach herself."

Inspector Connolly said the whale was likely to have become lost while migrating.

She believes the use of killer whale sounds may become more frequent in future rescues.

"Dr Patrick Millar, an expert in marine mammal acoustics from the St Andrews Sea Mammal Research Unit, played sounds of killer whales underwater through a specially adapted microphone towed behind a boat," she said.

"Man-made noises were also used and, while these were perhaps the most effective, it was an extremely useful experiment which may lead the way towards using similar techniques in the future.

"For now, all we can do is hope that tides, luck and determination will help this whale to safety."



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