Dolphin Calf Rehabilitated by the Texas State Aquarium Wildlife Rescue Center Deemed Non-Releasable
September 29, 2021
CORPUS CHRISTI, TX – The Texas State Aquarium (TSA) Wildlife Rescue Center has fully rehabilitated the male bottlenose dolphin calf rescued north of Goose Island State Park in June 2021. On September 13, 2021, the National Marine Fishery Service deemed the dolphin non-releasable. As the dolphin cannot be released, TSA will continue caring for the dolphin until a new home can be found.
In June, the Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network (TMMSN) contacted the Texas State Aquarium (TSA) about a report to Texas Parks and Wildlife concerning a stranded young dolphin in the remote, knee-deep waters just north of Goose Island State Park. The Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network deployed a rescue team via airboat to recover the dolphin calf living in the shallow lagoon next to his recently deceased mother.
Once rescued, the dolphin was carefully transported to the TSA Rescue Center, where upon arrival, he immediately received a physical examination to determine his condition. Texas State Aquarium Senior VP and COO Jesse Gilbert explains the young dolphin’s state of health and the Wildlife Rescue Center’s rehabilitation provisions:
“He was emaciated, abnormally thin. Dolphins typically have some extra fat tissues in different areas. These tissues had been depleted, indicating he certainly hadn’t been nursing from mom since she had passed away. Not knowing if he was still nursing when mom passed away, we initially started him on a dolphin milk formula.”
TSA veterinary staff put the dolphin on antibiotics due to initial diagnostic tests that showed evidence of an underlying respiratory infection. In addition, routine disease screening revealed proof of exposure to brucellosis, a contagious bacterial disease known to circulate in many wild dolphin populations. Thankfully, there has not been evidence of active infection during his stay at the Wildlife Rescue Center, but certain measures were taken to prevent any potential spread of this disease to TSA’s resident dolphins, who have negative brucellosis test results. In fact, TSA staff members who had contact with the dolphin or his water tank were required to adhere to a strict 48-hour quarantine before returning to the main Aquarium to ensure the health and well-being of the dolphins located at the primary aquarium facility.
Gilbert says the rescue efforts at TSA’s Wildlife Rescue Center were labor-intensive. When the dolphin first arrived, his 24-hour care required teams of up to five staff members to catch and hold the dolphin during feeding times that occurred every three to four hours. After a few weeks, TSA staff transitioned the calf’s diet to consist entirely of whole fish, however, the 24 hour a day, seven day a week observation continued.
After three months of round-the-clock care, the rescued dolphin has fully recovered, and the TSA Wildlife Rescue Center will continue practicing its husbandry and care. In the meantime, the National Marine Fishery will start looking for a forever home where the dolphin will live and become an ambassador for his species.
The animal care team at the Aquarium worked tirelessly to provide the best care possible for the dolphin in hopes that he could eventually return to the wild. Gilbert explains, “Releasing the dolphin was our main goal. We minimized his human contact because we didn’t want him to associate humans as positive things in his life. Humans out in the wild with dolphins is not a good interaction to have.” However, due to his young age, this calf is not equipped to handle life in the wild, so release was determined to be unsafe.
The Texas State Aquarium’s recent groundbreaking of its new state-of-the-art Port of Corpus Christi-Center for Wildlife Rescue at its primary location will enhance procedures for more efficient operations and access to state-of-the-art medical equipment and technology. Gilbert explains, “We’re excited that this dolphin is the catalyst for the future of the Rescue Center. This experience is an excellent example of how we can take what we learn in a professional aquarium setting and apply that to saving animals in the wild. We were able to take what we know about dolphins and apply that knowledge to this particular wild dolphin.” “The animals at the Aquarium allow us to talk and learn about the importance of wildlife conservation, and we put it into practice with these animals that come to the Rescue Center.”
To learn more about the Texas State Aquarium Wildlife Rescue Center and how you can help rescued animals, visit //www.texasstateaquarium.org/support/donate-to-aquariumoperations/.
About the Texas State Aquarium
The mission of the Texas State Aquarium is to engage people with animals, inspire appreciation for our seas, and support wildlife conservation.
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