Flipper bids fin(al) adieu to Ballina
By MARY MANN
LOCALS on the bank of East Ballina's Prospect Lake cheered yesterday afternoon as Flipper, a dolphin trapped in the lake for nine days, was set free.
Using a net, a team of 20 directed Flipper out of the lake, back into the Richmond River and out to sea.
Andrew Fay, a NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service ranger, said the dolphin had probably gone into the lake at high tide looking for food, but had not been able to get out as it was spooked by the shallow sandbar at the lake's entrance.
Experts feared the dolphin could have died if it had been trapped for much longer, because it could have caught a fatal skin disease from the less salty water in the lake, or run out of food.
"Our approach today was gently, gently," Mr Fay said.
"It has been a massive team effort with the best possible outcome, without us having to manhandle the animal."
The rescue mission took about two hours and involved teams from NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS), Seaworld, Australian Seabird Rescue, NSW Fisheries and Southern Cross University's (SCU) Whale Research Centre.
They gradually pulled a six-metre-deep net around the dolphin and encouraged it to swim over the sandbar.
If the dolphin had not moved over the sandbar by itself the crews would have had to catch it and transport it in a whale rescue trailer, to release it into the Richmond River.
Brian Dermody, from Seaworld, said Flipper appeared to be in good health, and he was confident the animal would find the rest of its pod out at sea.