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Baby dolphin rescued off Florida coast cannot return to the wild

Rescued baby dolphin
Posted at 11:42 AM, Sep 20, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-20 11:42:55-04

CLEARWATER, Fla. (WFTS) — SeaWorld Orlando said the baby dolphin in its care for the past nine weeks could not return to the wild.

In July 2022, lifeguards with Clearwater Fire and Rescue noticed a dolphin without its mother. The dolphin was found unresponsive and tangled in the remnants of a crab trap.

Lifeguards called the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. A team was dispatched to help the dolphin.

The two-month-old dolphin also had pneumonia and serious injuries. He was transported to SeaWorld Orlando for care.

"Unfortunately, this dolphin was deemed non-releasable by NOAA due to age and size," SeaWorld Zoological Operations Vice President Jon Peterson said. "He doesn't have the skill sets to thrive nor survive in the wild, so if we were to return him back out, unfortunately, all he would do is perish."

SeaWorld Orlando has been caring for the dolphin for the past two months. The dolphin lost a part of its fluke as a result of its injuries.

"The dolphin came in with entanglement around the peduncle and the flukes," Peterson continued. "He came in with blood values that had gone really in the wrong direction on salts and infection, and he couldn't swim at that point. He couldn't support himself. He did lose a part of his fluke."

The rescued bottlenose weighed around 57 pounds when it was rescued. An adult dolphin weighs more than 300 pounds. The baby dolphin had no teeth and was still nursing.

SeaWorld placed the dolphin in an intensive care unit.

The dolphin is doing better and making progress. Once he makes a full physical recovery and reaches an ideal weight, the dolphin will move from his critical care pol to join a pod of dolphins at SeaWorld Orlando park. People may then visit him.

While this dolphin's situation is sad, SeaWorld said it is not an isolated incident. Officials are reminding people of the dangers that "ghost fishing" poses to marine animal life. Fishing nets, traps, long lines, ropes and other gear that is abandoned or dumped in the water pose a threat to marine animals.

"Take it home, recycle it. If you see ghost gear or rope floating in the water, take it away," Peterson said. "I'll be honest with you, 70% of all dolphin interventions we have to do, have to do with human causes."

SeaWorld Orlando is allowing the public to name the dolphin. An online poll opened on Monday and will be available for the next week. People may pick from four names, including Ridgway, Theodore, Pierre and Teddy.

This story was originally reported by Julie Salomone on abcactionnews.com.