Featured Image Credit: FSC Millport Facebook
The powerful impact that the SeaWorld Orlando Rescue Team, the Georgia Aquarium Conservation Field Station, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission does not go unnoticed.
Last week, these groups returned “Sharkie”, the bottlenose dolphin that went through an intense four-month rehabilitation, to the ocean near St. Augustine, Florida. The 265 lb. dolphin was rescued in February on Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida with multiple shark bite wounds to her body and right pectoral flipper and was suffering from pneumonia. She was transferred to SeaWorld Orlando’s Cetacean Rehabilitation Facility to be placed in intensive care. During those four months, veterinarians and the Animal Rescue Team provided 24-hour care, treating her with antibiotics, dewormers, anti-inflammatories, physical therapy and wound care. In April, Sharkie was administered a hearing test to ensure hearing loss was not a factor in her injuries. Prior to her release, the dolphin was fitted with a satellite tag which will enable stranding network partner organizations to continue to monitor her.
George Biedenbach, director of the Georgia Aquarium Conservation Field Station, responded to Sharkie’s release, “Georgia Aquarium Conservation Field Station is proud to be a part of the initial rescue and release of this dolphin following its lengthy rehabilitation. Now, seeing it healthy enough to be released shows the dedication and hard work by all those involved. Our goal is to always assist animals in need as best we can, no matter the circumstances and we’re glad to see another animal thriving. Every animal counts and it’s through collaborative work like this that we can ensure the health and safety of so many ocean animals.”
The importance of these groups and all other marine mammal facilities is incredibly large. In the United Kingdom last week, one of the FSC tutors responded to what was reported as a baby blue whale struggling on the Ayrshire coast. The marine mammal was actually a porpoise calf who had multiple injuries over its body, with clear lacerations on its tailstock, suggesting entanglement in fishing gear. It was most likely still weaning (no teeth and frilled tongue) and looked malnourished. The FSC tutor stabilized it in the shallows and supported its head to avoid the blowhole from being covered up by incoming surf while assessing the wounds. The group agreed the wounds were superficial and attempted to refloat the animal. Despite their effort to give the animal chances to return to the ocean, it was struggling to swim and did not make it far before returning to the shoreline to re-strand.
It was at this time that the difficult decision was made for the youngling to be euthanized to minimize its suffering, because without the ability to swim under its own power and a mother to care for it; it would drown at sea or re-strand further down the coast.
You might be asking yourself, “But why didn’t they transfer the young dolphin to a facility like they did for Sharkie?”
The United Kingdom does not have any marine mammal facilities, causing stranded/severely injured animals to have two options: euthanization or float. If the porpoise calf was found in the United States, it would have been able to be put into critical care and released a few months later, if in a good condition.