A FAMILY of dolphins have been rescued by a group of volunteers who formed a 'human chain' to help the animals navigate their way out of a canal system in St. Petersburg, Florida.
The dolphins, including two calves had been stranded in the canal for a few days, but on Tuesday a number of volunteers jumped into the water to try and rescue them.
The 14-person strong human wall were able to encourage the dolphins to swim under a nearby bridge and out to sea to safety by moving slowly towards them and lightly splashing the water.
The dolphins were apparently reluctant to travel under the bridge because of the sound of the traffic above.
They use echolocation to navigate in the water. Emitting high-frequency sounds, dolphins interpret the echoes of sound waves that bounce off of objects to find their way around, and the noisy bridge sent the animals up river until they got lost.
"The human chain, it was a barrier, a visual," said Andy Garrett a biologist with the Florida Fish Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).
"They were seeing our team and the splashing, so it's kind of a wall of noise and a wall of people coming at them slowly.
"We were able to keep that chain together. The dolphins were interested, they actually came over right away, and kind of investigated.
"When we got to the bridge they got kind of nervous ... they were trying to figure out 'what do we want to do here'."
But thanks to the persistence, care and hard work of the team, the dolphins eventually took off under the bridge and made it back to open water.
They'd been stuck in the canal near the Fossil Park neighbourhood since Sunday, but according to Andy and his team, they didn't appear distressed.
They initially waited to see if the dolphins would swim out with the tide, but after failing to do so for a couple of days, the FWC decided to step in.
It took 45 minutes from when the human chain was formed for the dolphins to eventually swim back out to sea.