GULFPORT — When workers at the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies got a call earlier this week about a dolphin on the beach, they weren’t sure what condition the animal was in or if he was even still alive.
The dolphin was found Tuesday afternoon in a foot of water on the beach in Pass Christian. He was alive, but his condition was, and still is, critical. He was transported to the IMMS and has received constant care.
He had parasites and was de-wormed and put on antibiotics. He also has respiratory problems.
The dolphin has been floating in an above-ground pool inside a tent, supported by at least one person, usually two, 24 hours a day.
The feat is made even more difficult by the size of the creature, which weighs in at 550 pounds and measures nearly 10 feet long. The patient also has to wear a life jacket, and socks of sorts on his flippers.
“There are lots of dolphins out in that water,” said Connie Chevis, the veterinarian at IMMS. “But they don’t usually come up to the shore. For them to come floating up like that, they have to be sick.”
Because he is ill, the dolphin can’t swim or support himself, so volunteers stay in the water with him and guide his movements.
They have to constantly keep moving him to keep him active,” said Moby Solangi, president of IMMS. “Right now, he needs a lot of help.”
Chevis said his prognosis is guarded.
“Every day that he lives is a good thing,” she said.
Chevis said she knows the dolphin is an adult, but remains unsure of his age. If he survives, the dolphin likely will be released into the wild.
That isn’t always the case, she explained.
About a year ago, the IMMS rescued another dolphin from the beach but because he was young and workers didn’t know where his mother was. He was sent to a facility in Florida.
Solangi said it’s important to study these creatures and their surroundings.
“By studying their health, we’re studying the environment,” he said. “They’re mammals and so are we. When something happens to them, we’re next.”
By Melissa M. Scallan