RESCUE AGONY AS 10 DOLPHINS DIE ON BEACH; Locals and experts in desperate bid to save pod.
TEN beached dolphins have died despite a major rescue effort to save the pod.
These heartbreaking images show the desperate efforts locals made to return the animals to the Atlantic Ocean after they were cut adrift.
And experts reckon the 13-strong pod may have followed a sick relative into shore - and beached themselves.
The sad scenes were filmed by wildlife cameraman Fergus Sweeney on the Mullet Peninsula, in Co Mayo, last Sunday but details only emerged yesterday.
The dad of one, 34, said: "At 4pm I got a call to say four had been washed ashore. The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group said there were 13 common dolphins overall.
"Some were taken to deeper waters. I was one of the first on the beach and saw an adult dolphin beside an adolescent and that scene was repeated further up the beach.
"That would indicate that the younger ones weren't aware of the dangers of the shallow water.
"The other theory is that as they work in pods, when one gets sick they all accompany them to the shoreline."
Seven of the 13 stricken mammals managed to get back into deeper water themselves but residents and members of the RNLI refloated the others.
However, the following day rescuers found a dead female dolphin at Elly beach. Her young calf was in waters nearby but Irene O'Brien, a conservation ranger with the National Parks and Wildlife Service, believes the animal later died without milk from its mum.
Ms O'Brien said: "The calf was not seen later that day but we think it would not have survived anyway as it was still dependent on milk from its mother, who had died." Later that day another adult female and calf, who were stranded in "very poor condition", were euthanised by animal experts.
On Wednesday, another four adults and two calves died.
Two of these dolphins and a calf had been refloated earlier in the day but passed away after getting beached again later that evening. The IWDG has recorded a total of 34 live strandings in Co Mayo and 17 of these have been around the Mullet Peninsula.
Ms O'Brien said: "This is maybe the fourth such stranding here this year but this is definitely one of the biggest.
"No one knows why they get stranded. Some think the dolphins follow the food into shallow waters and get into difficulty.
"In recent weeks, fishing has been great around here and fishermen have reported seeing hundreds of dolphins at sea.
"You could go two years without seeing any stranded dolphins and then you might have two or three instances a year."
DOOMED Some of the stricken mammals on Mullet Peninsula, Co Mayo
LIFT Volunteers try to haul this dolphin to deep water
DISTRESS Men can only look on at dolphin