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Last Updated: Sunday, 24 June 2007, 09:25 GMT 10:25 UK
Rubber whale helps train rescuers
The training at Barmouth on Sunday
The BDMLR have 20 whale rescue groups across the UK
A lifesize two-tonne pilot whale, made of rubber, is helping to train groups of marine rescue volunteers in Gwynedd.

The course in Barmouth is being run with groups involved in rescuing seals and dolphins that become beached or injured.

The British Divers Marine Life Rescue Group (BDMLR), which tried to rescue a whale trapped on the Thames in London last year, is running the training.

The course aims to form a group of volunteers to be on 24-hour standby.

Wales coordinator for the BDMLR Phil Lewis said: "The north Wales coast receives a number of strandings of marine mammals each year and we are keen to boost the numbers of trained medics to respond to these strandings."

Inflatable whale. Photo: British Divers Marine Life Rescue Group
Volunteers in Devon using an inflatable whale

The course includes lectures on marine mammal biology and first aid and then practical exercises on rescue techniques at the nearby beach.

These include handling injured and stranded animals, first aid, assessing injuries and the refloating of dolphins and whales using the rescue group's specialist equipment.

Three different inflatables will be used during the course, including a dolphin and a seal pup.

'Pure accident'

Mr Lewis added: "The water-filled inflatable mammals we use are so lifelike that when the course has been run in the past, members of the public have offered to help, thinking they were real!"

He said that the group dealt with around 12 live strandings a year.

"Some are due to disorientation, some are through sickness, some could be pure accident where they have taken a wrong turning out at sea and come into an area where there's no feeding for them," said Mr Lewis.

"We learn a lot with every rescue that we attend, we always learn from things.

"We know from an assessment we can tell whether or not it is a reasonable thing to put the animal back into the water to refloat it or whether or not it does need to be humanely put to sleep."

"They get hands-on experience how to refloat the beached whale"

Rescuers put down beached whale
07 Mar 07 |  North West Wales
Thames whale skeleton on display
21 Jan 07 |  England
Rescued whale found dead on beach
01 Sep 06 |  Lincolnshire


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