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Home Florida Baby dolphin rescued in Clearwater thriving at SeaWorld, needs name

Baby dolphin rescued in Clearwater thriving at SeaWorld, needs name

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – A baby dolphin rescued from a crab trap on Clearwater Beach is thriving at SeaWorld, but is not able to be released back in to the wild and will soon be able to be seen by the public.

The dolphin, which has yet to be named, was found tangled in the trap under Pier 60 in July. Because of his age when he was rescued, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) deemed him non-releasable. The dolphin will now live at SeaWorld Orlando.

SeaWorld Orlando Vice President of Zoological Operations Jon Peterson said the baby dolphin, thought to be about 2 months old when he was brought to the facility, is doing well now. Peterson said the little dolphin has made “so many steps and hit so many milestones” that SeaWorld wants everyone to know about it.

“Because of his age and his size, he can’t thrive back in his natural environment. Dolphins learn all their social skills, hunting skills, eating skills, from their moms and unfortunately his mom isn’t around,” he said.

The Clearwater Marine Aquarium tried for hours in July to reunite the dolphin with his mother, holding him in the Gulf of Mexico to see if she would come back.

The dolphin arrived to SeaWorld Orlando in what was reported as “critical condition,” but Peterson said it was even worse.

“…when he came in, he was actually critical intense, hour by hour. We actually had a meeting when he came in because he was so catatonic that we were going to give him 24 hours, and if we didn’t see a change in 24 hours, then we’d need to sit down and kind of have a conversation about quality of life, which is where you never want to be,” he said.

The SeaWorld Rescue team worked with the dolphin to correct the saline in his system, as well as electrolytes. Peterson said it sounds simple, but was a difficult process to not get the dolphin to the point where it did not have enough salt.

Thankfully, the animal responded to treatment well.

“He started waking up and trying to swim, which that’s all we really need, is for him to show us he has some effort, and we’ll never quit. And that’s what the team did. And then we saw over the next 12 to 20 hours that he was more and more awake and as we were tubing, he was having a suckle reflex,” Peterson said. “When you see a suckle reflex in a baby, you want to give them a bottle, especially dolphins.”

He said giving a baby dolphin a bottle makes them think and work all their muscles, having to fight to get the milk.

“I know that sounds rough but in an animal but if they’re not trying, they will die on you. He kept trying and he takes his bottle really strong and started swimming harder and harder,” Peterson said.

The next step for the baby dolphin is to be moved in to SeaWorld Orlando’s “dolphin nursery,” which is on display to all park-goers. He needs socialization and to learn “how to be a dolphin.” He will have companions in another young dolphin, its mother and a “nanny,” or an experienced mother dolphin. Those visiting the park can watch the baby continue to get bottles every two hours. The exact date for the dolphin to be moved is not yet determined.

The little one also needs a name, something Peterson said is a delicate process.

“Naming is something that when you rehabilitate, you’re very guarded to do. When you give a name, it means that the animal is going to survive, going to thrive,” Peterson said. “We’re superstitious to say the least, because when you deal with animals that come in so sick, a lot of times you don’t get to this point.” 

He said normally, the rescue team names the animal, but for this baby dolphin gaining fame across the country, the process is different.

The SeaWorld Orlando social media channels including Facebook and Twitter will be revealing four names the rescue team has come up with, and fans can choose their favorite to help name the young dolphin.

The four options include “Ridgway,” “Theodore,” “Pierre” and “Teddy.” The poll closes Sept. 26 at 5 p.m.



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