New pictures reveal bottlenose dolphin Spirtle’s miraculous recovery two years after suffering horror sunburn injuries when she washed up on Aberdeen shore

  • Spirtle the dolphin was found stranded on mudflats in the Cromaty Firth 
  • Rescuers managed to refloat the dolphin but did not expect her to survive 
  • More than two years later, environmentalists spotted her on the Moray Firth 

Fascinating pictures show a bottlenose dolphin’s miraculous recovery – two years after suffering horrific sunburn injuries.

The dolphin – known as Spirtle – was stranded out of the water on mudflats in the Cromarty Firth, Moray, in 2016.

Rescuers refloated the female dolphin but didn’t think she would survive after being stranded for 24 hours with extensive sunburn and severe dehydration.

Spirtle the bottlenose dolphin managed to survive this extreme bout of sunburn

She was stranded on shore for more than 24 hours when she suffered the sunburn

Over the past two years, Spritle’s skin has managed to recover and she is behaving normally

But new images have revealed how the six-year-old dolphin’s injuries have continued to heal – more than two years later.

University of Aberdeen scientists and Whale and Dolphin Conservation field officer Charlie Phillips have been monitoring her ongoing recovery.

Mr Phillips took the latest image of Spirtle close to Fort George, near Ardersier, on the Moray Firth. 

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Dr Barbara Cheney, a research Fellow at the Lighthouse Field Station, University of Aberdeen, said: ‘Spirtle was in a group with four other dolphins near the Sutors of Cromarty last Friday.

‘It is difficult to know exactly how her recovery is going as we are of course judging only on photographs and her behaviour.

‘But we weren’t optimistic when we first saw her two months after the stranding in July 2016 when we saw the extent of her wound and the damage to her skin.

‘However, since then we have been happily surprised by the progress of her healing, and when we spotted her last Friday the wound was completely healed over.

‘Also when we saw her initially after the stranding she was often on her own, but now she is interacting more with other dolphins and her behaviour is what we would expect to see from any other six-year-old dolphin.’


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