‘The best outcome is survival:’ SeaWorld Orlando shares update on rescued baby dolphin

Dolphin found with tail entangled in crab trap

SeaWorld Orlando shares update on rescued baby dolphin

ORLANDO, Fla. – SeaWorld Orlando says a rescued baby dolphin is recovering well after being helped by teams at Clearwater Beach earlier this summer.

The male calf was rescued back on July 20 after being found with life threatening injuries sustained from entanglement in crab trap lines. Teams from Clearwater Marine Aquarium and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) transported the dolphin to a backstage area at SeaWorld for urgent medical care and rehabilitation.

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“He came in he was in a catatonic state, his electrolytes and some other blood values were way out of order. So he was almost like in a coma - he was unresponsive. He was just breathing, no eye reflex, nothing,” said Jon Peterson, vice president of Zoological Operations at SeaWorld Orlando. “He had been tied more or less to the pier itself so he’d been struggling for who knows how long until the lifeguard found him.”

Dolphin found at Clearwater Beach back in July (Clearwater Marine Aquarium)

At the time, teams at SeaWorld Orlando said the dolphin’s prognosis was very grim, but with around the clock care from a medical team, and a complex plan that included dropping salt and freshwater conditions, the dolphin’s health slowly improved.

“And 48 hours later, he starts having a suckle reflux as we’re trying to give him a tube feeding so putting a tube in every two hours to give him a nutrition. So, we put a bottle and he went to the bottle - he jumped on it,” Peterson described. “Actually suckle reflex wanting to nurse is making him work all his muscles, his mind, he’s really now functionally starting to think - so now we just had to deal with pneumonia, lung worm, infection, a couple other things that caused a problem. Over the next four months, we actually got to a spot where he’s really really stable and he’s strong, he takes his bottles but we’re ready for the next milestone.”

SeaWorld Orlando shares update on rescued baby dolphin (SeaWorld)

NOAA has since deemed the baby dolphin non-releasable due to his young age. Teams at SeaWorld Orlando now plan to move the small baby dolphin to the theme park’s Dolphin Nursery area where the public can view him as teams continue around the clock care and bottle feedings.

“We have a mom with a young baby who is a little bit older, about a year and a couple of months old, but it’s a mom and a baby. We also have a very experienced mom, who is a great nanny.” Peterson said. “We will put him there and let this socialization and everything a dolphin needs that he’s missing right now.

SeaWorld Orlando said the small dolphin will be an animal ambassador that will hopefully raise awareness about keeping the beaches and oceans clean.

“This didn’t have to happen, if we just picked up our trash. If someone had pulled the line out that was hanging on the pier and just got it out of there. We wouldn’t be in this situation. I think that’s the major part of this story that I want to go away from here,” Peterson concluded.

SeaWorld Orlando plans to name the baby dolphin with the help from the public. Four names have been announced and the public has until Sept. 26 to cast their vote.

Earlier this year, SeaWorld announced that the company had surpassed 40,000 animal rescues in its history.

Click here to learn more about SeaWorld’s commitment to animal rescue, rehabilitation and return program.

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About the Authors:

Landon joined News 6 in 2017. He grew up in Southern Illinois and graduated from Southern Illinois University with a bachelors degree in TV and digital media. When he is not at work you can catch him at one of Orlando's theme parks or the beach. Before working at News 6 he worked for stations in Miami and Fort Myers.

Candace joined the News 6 team as the weekend morning meteorologist and reporter. She comes to Central Florida from Miami.