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Concern growing over Shannon dolphins

Bottlenose Dolphins Bunratty
Bottlenose dolphins at Bunratty (© Pat Flynn via the IWDG)

Concern is growing over three bottlenose dolphins observed in the  Ralty River, near Durty Nellies pub, Bunratty. The dolphins, which were first observed in the shallow creek on Sunday 31/03/2013.

“The group remain in apparently good condition with no obvious signs of distress,” said the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group today. “There is growing concern that they have spent a long period in this narrow stretch of  water with no sign of leaving.”

Although it is very unusual to see dolphins so far up one of the Shannon’s tributaries, Shannon dolphins are often seen foraging in shallow water, and recent acoustic monitoring carried out by the Shannon Dolphin and Wildlife Foundation (SDWF)  have recorded bottlenose dolphins regularly off Shannon Airport and Aughinish, showing that the resident dolphins regularly travel a substantial distance upriver .

Intiial advice from the IWDG was to leave the animals to their own devices, leaving them to navigate their way back to the estuary proper. However, while there are no outward signs of distress, the fact that the dolphins have remained in the same restricted body of murky water for so long is causing growing concern amongst observers.

“We can’t rule out the possibility that their acoustic abilities may be impaired by the series of bridges and concrete pillars that span one of the bridges, and that they may be finding it difficult to navigate as a result of an ‘acoustic trap’,” said the IWDG.

“We are in discussion with the National Parks and Wildlife Service with a view to exploring options in the event of a decision being made to encourage them back into the Shannon Estuary,” they said.

The IWDG continues to monitor the situation closely.


  • Sounds ridiculous that a stone bridge could mess with their sonar. they can navigate around bigger and more confusing things than a bridge. It would appear to me the Dolphins are there for one of two reasons.
    1) hunting freshwater fish
    2) they are in the freshwater to try to dispose of some salt water parasites. They die in the fresh water.

    I think the Dolphins know best what they are doing there and so should be left to their own devises. I am not suggesting that nature take its course completely but as long as the dolphins appear in good shape leave them alone. should the situation deteriorate then it can be reassessed

    • Avatar photo

      Think that’s the approach being taken by the IWDG and the NPWS Nick… monitoring and leaving the dolphins to their own devices. An update yesterday on the IWDG website confirms the dolphins are healthy, feeding and able to pass back and forth under the bridge without any trouble. They’re advising people to enjoy the spectacle from a respectful distance and not to disturb the animals by entering the water.

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