A hit-and-run killer is being sought after a dolphin calf was fatally injured by a speedboat off the Cornish Coast at the weekend.
Marine conservationists have offered a reward of £2,000 in an attempt to find the speedboat user who is thought to have been among a group of more than 20 powerboats seen harassing a rare inshore pod of bottlenose dolphins in the Camel estuary near Padstow on Saturday afternoon.
One of the speedboats is thought to have hit the calf, whose body was spotted later by passengers on a pleasure boat.
The charity Sea Shepherd UK is offering the reward for information leading to the arrest and successful conviction of those responsible.
Abby Crosby, a marine conservation officer with the Cornwall Wildlife Trust, said the death of the dolphin was "an appalling tragedy".
She told the Daily Mail: "There are only three recognised inshore pods that are resident around the coast in the UK and one of them is in Cornwall.
"There are only between eight and a dozen dolphins in this Cornish pod and to lose one is drastic.
"I understand it was not a deliberate act but an accident but we need to educate powerboat owners about how special this species is.
"I believe everyone was alerted that the pod was out in the estuary and they went out to see them. I think some speedboat owners were very excited to see them.
"These dolphins are protected under law by the Wildlife Act of 1981 and you cannot plead ignorance of the law.
"You cannot follow a pod because that is harassment. They can follow boats but boat owners should turn their engines off.
"These creatures are insanely intelligent. They will mourn the loss of a calf, they are not like wild animals with little intelligence."
She added that Padstow sightseeing vessels were also in the area at the time of the incident, but that the operators are trained in how to behave responsibly around wildlife and there was no insinuation that any of them were involved. But it's possible that passengers on those boats may have witnessed the harassment by users of other vessels.
Police have appealed for witnesses and a full investigation is under way.
Anyone with information is being asked to contact Devon and Cornwall Police on 101.
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