Concern grows for dolphins in lake

TWO dolphins remain in East Ballina's Prospect Lake, despite a concerted attempt on Sunday to herd them out to sea.

A second dolphin round-up is expected before Friday.

A dozen wildlife experts tried to herd three bottlenose dolphins out of the man-made lake over the weekend, using a net. One of the animals, a male nick-named Socrates, escaped back into North Creek.

However, a female and her calf literally did a back-flip and tore a hole in the net, not content to swim to apparent safety.

The effort on behalf of wildlife carers was huge, and even included New South Wales police diverting traffic through East Ballina so the dolphins would not be frightened by speeding cars as they swam under Angels Beach Drive.

Australian Seabird Rescue president Rochelle Ferris said there was growing concern for the dolphins, which had been in the lake for the past fortnight. Witnesses said the dolphins appeared lethargic last week and Sea World researchers worried they were becoming dehydrated, possibly from consuming too few fish.

Ms Ferris said Southern Cross University researchers, Christine Fury and Liz Hawkins, were certain the male dolphin, from a local Ballina pod and previously nick-named Socrates, had guided the female, along with her calf, into the lake.

The body of water is known to harbour mullet, flathead and whiting.

Socrates, identified by his unique dorsal fin, was previously 'stuck' in the lake last March, and obviously thought conditions good enough for his fish-loving mates.

But with each grown dolphin gobbling 25kg of fish every day, the little lake is not be able to provide enough tucker.

As a result, wildlife experts became concerned for the dolphins' welfare and launched Sunday's operation, which also included Sea World staff, National Parks and Wildlife rangers, New South Wales Fisheries and Australian Seabird Rescue volunteers.

A net was strung across the lake and the dolphins slowly and quietly herded towards the outlet. All went well until the dolphins ducked under the net's footrope and back into the lake. A second attempt appeared to be working well until the dolphins tore a hole in the net.

Ms Ferris said researchers had noticed fish entering the lake yesterday and were confident the dolphins would be able to feed while new moon tides this week remained high.

But another attempt to remove them would take place before the end of the week, using a stronger net, and there were plans to place a dolphin-proof barrier across the lake entrance to prevent future mishaps.

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