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Texas State Aquarium nurses rescued dolphin back to healthy status

Posted at 6:40 PM, Sep 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-29 19:40:23-04

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — A young malnourished dolphin the Texas State Aquarium rescued in June has been brought back to a health status and is ready for a new home.

A collaboration effort by several agencies found the dolphin north of Goose Island State Park. He looked like he hadn't been eating with his mother found dead nearby.

The chief operating officer said it's the first long term rescue of it's kind in over ten years.

“The aquarium’s Institute for Wildlife Conservation and rescue program jumped into action to mobilize and be able to take the dolphin in," Jesse Gilbert said, chief operating officer of the aquarium. "Kind of make an assessment of where the animal was, how old it was and what medical condition it was under.”

The dolphin was found to be dehydrated, abnormally skinny and lacked energy.

"We started in on 24 hour round the clock care for him, feeding him a dolphin formulated milk product for dolphins," said Gilbert. "Then very quickly he took to whole fish which was great.”

Dr. Carrie Ullmer, head veterinarian at the aquarium was tasked with improving his nutrition plan and behavior. She said at first he was lethargic and didn't have the energy a 10 to 14 month old dolphin should have. Now he's got energy and gained about 80 lbs.

“I think this animal was fairly compromised when he first came to us and now just seeing him look like a normal healthy dolphin is just very rewarding to see that transition,” said Ullmer

The rescue center held off on naming the dolphin because the plan was to hopefully release him back into the wild. That won't happen now. So, brainstorming has begun to name him.

“Unfortunately he was so young that he can’t return to the wild ,so he never learned how to be a dolphin in the wild," said Gilbert. "The ocean’s not necessarily a nice place. Sharks, there’s other dolphins. Along with the National Marine Fisheries Service, the aquarium felt it was best to deem him officially non-releasable.”

Trainers have begun to work with the dolphin to get him acclimated to a future home in a zoo or aquarium.

“He came in rather young so he sees humans as just part of the family at this point," Gilbert said. "So, the trainers are in there, they dive and clean the holding space and he’s in there with him. And he’ll go inquisitive and look at them. He’ll interact with enrichment devices with them.”

“Oh man, he’s just a totally different animal," Ullmer said. "So, when he first came to us he was swimming very slowly. He was spending a lot of time kind of resting at the surface where they’ll just kind of float and bob along at the top of the water. He just didn’t seem to have a whole lot of energy. And now he’s — it’s really cool to see. He can swim so quickly, he’s much more just brighter, and faster in the water.”

Gilbert said part of the admission to the aquarium goes to their Institution for Wildlife Conservation. That's what will help rescues like this dolphin.