Since I last gave a turtle update a lot of activity has been happening at Audubon Nature Institute’s rehabilitation facility. We are currently caring for a total of 105 oiled sea turtles! I loving call the facility Turtle Island. We also are hosting four non-oiled Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles that have become stranded during this time from West Louisiana.
Audubon Aquarium and Louisiana Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Rescue Program
has been rescuing and rehabilitating sea turtles and marine mammals for the past 15 years. We respond to ill, injured or out-of-habitat animals and provide the necessary care. As Michele Kelley likes to say, “This may be our first oil spill but it is certainly not our first time rescuing and rehabilitating animals.”
All year long, Audubon responds to calls from all over Louisiana to help wildlife. Treme and Margeaux
, two Green sea turtles currently on exhibit at Audubon Aquarium, are great examples of what Louisiana Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Rescue Program is all about.
On Saturday, June 19th, 2010, Audubon Nature Institute was contacted by our partners at LDWF and NOAA to respond to a stranded dolphin in Rutherford Beach. The team led by Michele Kelley headed 4 and a half hours west to assess the dolphin and determine whether or not it needed to be brought back to our rehabilitation facility or just simply relocated to a body of water.
When the rescue team arrived on scene, NOAA made the decision based on respiration rate, obvious dehydration and signs of stress that the dolphin needed to be brought back and given medical care. During transport back, fluids, a vitamin complex and antibiotics were administered.
Once arriving back at Audubon Aquatic Center, a further veterinarian exam was given including drawing blood, weight, blowhole culture, temperature and x-rays. The dolphin was then put into a pool for observation.
There was no visible oil seen on the dolphin but it still had to be worked up as a ‘suspect’, just like our four non-oiled sea turtles
. The dolphin is a male, measuring 7 feet 9 inches and weighing 232 pounds on arrival.
For the first few days after his arrival, it was very touch and go. He had to be under constant 24 hour watch. He refused to eat on his own which lead Audubon staff to have to tube feed him. Finally on Wednesday night, June 23rd, a few live fish went missing and Thursday morning’s exam discovered fish blood in his stomach.
During the day he started to show signs of playfulness and typical dolphin behavior. This was a great sign of moving in the right direction while we all stayed very cautiously optimistic and continued to watch.
Thursday night, June 24th, live fish were added once again to his pool in hopes that he would eat on his own. While several minutes passed with a crowd around him, he finally started showing some interest in the fish around him. After a few attempts at attack, he finally captured and ate his first fish in front of us. Cheers erupted from the staff and Michele and Marina were jumping up and down and screaming with excitement. You must understand that the dolphin being able to eat on his own was a huge sign to us that all the care and effort given to this animal was finally paying off.
While the dolphin is still not in the clear and has a way to go, it is our hope that we will be able to successfully release him back to his home in the waters of Louisiana. Releasing an animal is the ultimate goal of any wildlife program. To see this animals return to health and be able to return home makes all the sleepless nights and backbreaking work worth every moment.
What will tomorrow hold? We never know but we are ready for anything and everything. Until then:
"For in the end, we will conserve only what we love. We will love only what we understand. We will understand only what we are taught."~Baba Dioum