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Sick Dolphin Recuperating in Gulfport Could Offer Clues to Dead Animals Washing Ashore

By Rhonda Miller | Published 01 Dec 2011 09:36am | comments
Animal Care Director Tim Hoffland teaches the ailing dolphin to slow down and eat at the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Gulfport.

A sick dolphin at the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Gulfport could offer clues to why so many dead animals are washing up on the Gulf Coast.  MPB’s Rhonda Miller has more.

Dangling a fish over the edge of a big blue pool, Animal Care Director Tim Hoffland blows a high-pitched whistle when the dolphin comes by and takes a bite. The whistle means "good job."

"I’m trying to get him to slow down and come to a stop so we can feed him, as opposed to just ripping fish out of our hands," says Hoffland.

Eating is important for the dolphin’s recovery. He was undernourished and had internal and external parasites when he was stranded on an Alabama beach on Thanksgiving Eve.

The live dolphin is a rare find, because 603 dead dolphins have washed up on the Gulf Coast since February 2010. One-hundred-sixty-seven of those werein Mississippi.

"Now we have a live animal that was sick in the area where we had a very large number of animals that died, especially the young ones." That’s Moby Solangi, director of the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Gulfport. "Earlier in Spring, we had a lot of stillborns, a lot of animals that were just born and then died."

But the big question is, could this be connected to the BP oil spill?

"We really don't ahve any exact clues. But you have to remember, he was in the same environment that was affected by oil. You know,yYou can't leave that out," Solangi said. "However, there could be other reasons. We have to very careful in making speculative assertions."

He said the dolphins is undergoing a wide range of tests.

Erin Fougeres of  the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said of 29 dolphins tested, 10 tested positive for the marine bacteria Brucella. Fougere also said oil is one consideration in NOAA’s extensive testing.

"We have some externally visibly-oiled animals strand. And that oil has been fingerprinted in a number of cases back to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill," Fougeres said. "That  doesn’t mean that  was the cause of death for the animal. It just means that animal had oil on it at the time of stranding.

During the past week, two dead dolphins washed up in Alabama. Three others washed up Mississippi, in Gulfport, Pass Christian and Waveland..

 

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Animal Care Director Tim Hoffland teaches the ailing dolphin to slow down and eat at the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Gulfport.


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