Dolphin rescued from Longboat Key deemed 'non-releasable'
CLEARWATER, Fla. (WFLA) — The stranded rough-tooth dolphin rescued from Longboat Key in early February will not return to the wild, according to an update provided by the Clearwater Marine Aquarium on Monday.
Officials with the aquarium said the “resilient” female rough-toothed dolphin continues to meet all of her rehabilitation milestones at the aquarium’s Fred Howard Park Stranding Center.
When the dolphin first arrived at the facility, officials said the mammal was suffering from a mild infection that has since been treated by veterinarians.
“Stranding on a beach may cause mild stress to internal organs due to the weight of the animal out of water,” the aquarium said.
As part of the release process, the rough-toothed dolphin was given a hearing test on March 9 by experts from the National Marine Mammal Foundation under the direction of National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS).
Based on the results of the test, officials said the dolphin is “effectively hearing impaired.”
Experts said that dolphins with hearing loss cannot echolocate to find food or avoid predators, which is essential to their survival in the wild.
Hearing deficits have been frequently found in stranded dolphins, especially the rough-toothed dolphin species for unknown reasons.
“Due to this hearing deficit, NMFS has officially determined that this dolphin will be non-releasable and recommends that she be placed at a facility with the same species,” the aquarium said.
The dolphin will continue to receive care from CMA’s animal care team until NMFS identifies a final placement location.
If the public sees a marine mammal in distress, it’s important to remember not to intervene, and call trained responders at (877) WHALE-HELP. The public should remain at a safe distance, and if conditions allow, take photos to share with biologists once they arrive on scene.
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