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Oz Flipper rescue a family affair for 'dolphin whisperers' from Northern Ireland

By Laura Abernethy

Published 26/01/2016

Matt Poole (centre) helps to keep Silhouette calm
Matt Poole (centre) helps to keep Silhouette calm
Matthew Poole, Jessica Poole, Jessica’s boyfriend David and Joshua Poole afterwards
Resort staff treat her for injuries she received after a hook was lodged in her jaw
Onlookers watch the rescue operation

Three Northern Irish siblings have been dubbed the "dolphin whisperers" after they took part in a dramatic rescue in Australia.

Matthew, Joshua and Jessica Poole, originally from Templepatrick, helped to save 'Silhouette' the bottlenose dolphin at the Tangalooma Island Resort, just off the Brisbane Coast.

Matthew (26) has lived and worked in Tangalooma for a few years. He went backpacking across Australia, ended up in the resort for a weekend, and never left.

He said that he had been hounding his siblings to join him and they were only recently reunited. Jessica (21) came out in August with her boyfriend and then Joshua (24) arrived just a few weeks ago.

Together they helped to save Silhouette after the the team from the Tangalooma Island Resort Wild Dolphin Feeding Program discovered that she had a fishing line and stainless steel hook embedded in her mouth.

Matthew said: "It was completely by chance that we were all here and as soon as we heard that Silhouette was injured, you could not have stopped us helping out."

Volunteers had been able to remove the fishing line but as she was still showing signs of injury a week later, the three Pooles and the rest of the team had to bring her in to allow her to be treated by a vet.

Silhouette was separated from her one-year-old calf Betts during the rescue, and it was Jessica's job to keep the calf calm while her brothers helped to check Silhouette for any damage.

Matthew explained: "If Betts gets stressed there's a chance he will die. They are conscious breathers so it was really important that Jessica kept him completely entertained by feeding him small fish and playing with him.

"I was assigned the job of 'head catcher'. It was important to let her know that she was safe but she wasn't going anywhere. We then stretchered her in, pulled her out of the water onto the mattress, and then the vet was able to treat her."

The team had to work quickly to move the 200kgs dolphin so they could treat her before she or her calf became too stressed.

Matthew added: "There was a lot of pressure with it because we knew it had to be done during the feed. There were 300 to 400 people watching. We have such a connection with the dolphins and there's a lot of trust there so we feel such a responsibility. This was particularly poignant because she had a calf. Emotions were running high before the rescue and everybody had to stay calm and just get it done. Everybody in the whole dolphin care team really pulled it out of the bag."

Silhouette had been able to dislodge the hook herself but the vet administered some antibiotics to help her recovery.

"Within 30 seconds of us putting her back in the water, she was able to feed again and she checked up on Betts straight away. She's doing really well now and there are no adverse signs whatsoever. We were all incredibly relieved," Matthew added.

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