SHE was famed across the world for her brush with death when her dramatic sunburn scars were revealed three years ago, but now Spirtle has found a new lease of life leading her own pod of dolphins hundreds of miles from her original home.

It was in May 2016 that Spirtle was badly injured while she was stranded out of water on mudflats for 24 hours in the Cromarty Firth. She was found by chance by a couple whose SatNav misdirected them and dolphin fans were overjoyed when the bottlenose dolphin not only survived her ordeal but was seen to be healing in the Scottish waters.

Spirtle has now emerged in the Irish Sea off the east coast of the Irish republic where she was spotted with her distinctive scars last week.

She may even have her own daughter and is certainly leading the pod, as reported by the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG).

They reported on their website: “On May 14 we started getting unusual sighting reports of dolphins off the South Dublin and North Wicklow area, which we were confident were bottlenose dolphins.

“Although sightings of this species are not common along the east coast, they do occur from time to time.

The National: Spirtle, pictured in May 2016 with her sunburn scarsSpirtle, pictured in May 2016 with her sunburn scars

“But there was a consistent feature on many of these reports, which was that one of the dolphins seemed to be very heavily scarred, which initially lead us to ponder whether there could be a Risso’s dolphin travelling with a group of bottlenose.

“Then the images started coming in and they all showed that no, this was a bottlenose dolphin, but one that was very heavily scarred with brilliant white skin on its right flank.

“We showed a few images taken by Cairbre O Ciardha from Killiney beach to Dr Joanne O’ Brien of the IWDG and the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology, who recognised this individual and so she contacted Barbara Cheney from the University of Aberdeen.”

She confirmed that it was Spirtle and described how the dolphin was rescued, adding: “Since then we’ve seen her pretty regularly each summer, the wound gradually healing. We last saw her on the September 18, 2018. However, I believe she was seen by a member of the public in the Moray Firth at the start of this year.”

The IWDG added: “This is a great story of survival for this individual, whose future hung in the balance back in 2016 when few among the rescue team gave this young dolphin much chance of survival, given the severity of her injuries and severe dehydration. She is very much alive and well.”