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Last Updated: Monday June 09 2008 17:38 GMT

Race to save stranded dolphins

One of the dolphins that's been rescued

A big rescue operation is under way to save some dolphins that have got stuck in a river on the Cornish coast.

So far, at least 21 dolphins have died after swimming up the Percuil River and getting stranded at Porth Creek.

Coastguards have released another five into deeper water but three others are still stuck and said to be very ill.

It's thought the first group of dolphins, known as a pod, could have swam into the river chasing fish and been caught out by a low tide.

A stranded dolphin
It's thought the dolphins' distress calls are bringing others to the river
Another idea is that the mammals may have been scared by something and swam into the river to hide.

It's thought the original pod's distress signals attracted other dolphins to the river.

'Quite unusual'

Conservationists, divers and coastguards are all helping with the rescue operation.

Maddie Precious, from the Cornwall Wildlife Trust, said: "We're obviously going to try to find out why this happened, it is obviously quite unusual."

The stranding of the dolphins is thought to be the biggest in England for more than 25 years.