An Atlantic bottlenose dolphin was rescued late Tuesday night in Gulf Shores after beaching itself earlier that day.
A local walking along the shore spotted the struggling dolphin and called officials from the Marine Mammal Stranding Network who were quickly on the scene.
Tuesday night the rescue team from the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Gulfport was called and hurriedly made its way to Gulf Shores to save the animal.
Moby Solangi, director of the institute, said when he and his team arrived in Gulf Shores the young dolphin was already in critical condition showing signs of distressed breathing.
What they found on the beach was a two-and-a-half-year-old male dolphin weighing about 190 pounds and in need of immediate medical attention.
Solangi and his team agreed that the waves from Tropical Storm Ida probably contributed to the beaching of the young dolphin.
Keeping the animal’s skin wet, the team rushed it back to Gulfport in a “dolphin ambulance.”
The truck is equipped with a giant tub for the animal and has special medical equipment for the transportation of dolphins and other marine life.
“He would have died if someone would not have seen him and called. That is for sure,” Solangi said. “We think the dolphin was separated from his pod or his mother during the storm. When this happens, they become disoriented and head for the shore.”
A team of more than 20 marine experts have been assessing and monitoring the condition of the dolphin, which had an array of problems after laying on the beach for more than 4 hours.
“We can see that this dolphin has some gastrointestinal issues, a host of external parasites are on his tail, and he was traumatized,” Solangi said. “Dolphins are very buoyant and if you take all of that weight out of the water bones could be crushed or muscle breakdown.
“It is like living on the moon and coming to earth all of the sudden.”
As of noon on Wednesday, the animal was swimming around a 50-foot-long tank and in better condition than when he arrived late Tuesday.
The team caring for the animal has been conducting continuous X-rays, drawing blood, administering vitamins, antibiotics and other medications.
“This dolphin is in the best facility in three states,” Solangi said. “We are all about rehab, rescue and research.”
The dolphin will be monitored in the smaller, sanitized tank for about two weeks then moved to a larger tank./p>
“With an estimated 5,000 to 10,000 dolphins in Mississippi and Louisiana waters, we have the largest population in the United States. This is unusual for us to discover a beached dolphin during the winter. It is usually during the spring or summer so that makes us think it was the storm that caused this,” said Solangi.
The stranding network offers protection and hot lines for marine life that are in need of help.
NOAA Fisheries and the Office of Protected Resources provides marine mammal stranding networks.
For information about the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies visit www.imms.org.
By Leigh Coleman