British surfers Ben Rogers and Dave Butterton were paddling into the water to surf the Severn tidal bore upriver near Epney in Gloucestershire on Saturday when they heard splashing on a sandbank and discovered a stranded baby porpoise.
“We thought about just releasing her back into the channel, but it is pretty inevitable that she would get stranded on the next low tide and the next until exhausted she would have passed away,” Butterton, 40, wrote on Facebook. “More dead porpoises are found in Gloucester than live ones.”
As detailed by the Plymouth Herald, they decided to rescue the baby porpoise and return it back to sea some 130 miles away.
“We are both nature people and we love the river,” Rogers told the Herald. “The porpoise was so young and not injured. We just couldn’t leave the poor thing there like that.”
The two wrapped the porpoise in wet towels and used a surfboard as a stretcher to carry it to the car, which was no easy task.
“It was quite a young one, not fully grown, so it wasn’t too heavy but there was still a lot of muscle there,” Rogers told the Herald. “It was probably the size of a small child.
“We had to get it up the bank through all the reeds, which wasn’t easy because the bank was steep and it was just the two of us.
“We got it up to the top in the end and put it on Dave’s board and he dragged it along while I steadied it about half a mile along this footpath.
“It was so tired it just sat there.”
Rogers, 37, lives in nearby Bristol, so they determined that Butterton would drive the baby porpoise back to the sea near where Butterton lives in Ilfracombe, Devon.
He drove 2 1/2 hours, stopping often to rewet the porpoise in the back of the fold-down trunk of his Vauxhall Zafira.
After a quick stop to pick up Butterton’s partner, Mary Taylor, and their two sons, they drove to Hele Bay beach in Devon where their 12-year-old son helped Butterton release the baby porpoise in waist-deep water at around 11 p.m.
“She seemed a bit dopey at first when I got her into the water, had to kind of hold her up for a bit,” Butterton told the Herald. “Then suddenly it was like she realized where she was and she just came back to life … and away she went.”
The rescue was a success.
“We were hoping it would give a little jump like ‘Free Willy’ and it didn’t, but it was an amazing sense of satisfaction,” Taylor told the Herald. “It swam away very happily.”
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