Up to 40 volunteers will descend on the Pencil in Largs on Sunday for a mass training exercise. 

The British Divers Marine Life Rescue charity will use the exercise to test their skills in a whale 'mass stranding' scenario.

The event will involve several life-size inflatable models of pilot whales being ‘stranded’ on the beach, and the volunteers invited to come in to rescue them in simulated conditions.

The UK has seen a rise in large-scale strandings involving pilot whales, and sometimes other species in recent years.

More than 50 pilot whales were stranded on a beach at Traigh Mhor on the isle of Lewis in July.

There are a variety of reasons why mass strandings can occur, including a sick or injured animal inadvertently leading the others ashore as they try to help it; being frightened by loud underwater noises, such as sonar; or simply from becoming disoriented in unfamiliar intertidal or enclosed areas, like estuaries and harbours.

Gavin Lemon, BDMLR’s area coordinator for the Ayrshire region, says the exercise will be vital for volunteers.

He said: “I’m really looking forward to taking on this challenge and seeing how we perform not only as individuals, but working together as a team.

"This is one of the amazing things about this charity, in that as trained volunteers we can still essentially be strangers to one another.

"However when called upon in a real-life situation we come together to achieve what is best for the welfare of these enigmatic creatures.”

Members of the public who find a live stranded dolphin or whale are asked to call BDMLR’s 24hr emergency hotline 01825 765546 immediately for urgent first aid advice and for assistance to be dispatched as soon as possible.