With so much pride, I am honored to share this remarkable story with you. Our Dolphin Cay Team participated in the rescue, recovery and successful release of a stranded dolphin back to his former habitat – the ocean waters of Bimini. In late August, Atlantis was notified of a dolphin in distress at Great Stirrup Cay, by Bahamas Marine Mammal Research Organization (BMMRO). Photos were sent by local citizens along with a request for assistance. Preparations began in anticipation of a stranding response.
After notification and approval from the Department of Marine Resources authorizing intervention, a determination was made to send a rapid response team; Jonathan Wong (Director of Marine Mammal Operations), Dr. O’Sullivan (Marine Mammal Veterinarian) and Dr. Amanda Pinder (volunteer Bahamian Veterinarian) to assess the animal’s condition. The dolphin was found floating next to a dock, weak with recent weight loss. The Atlantis Assessment team quickly determined that the animal was a male Atlantic spotted dolphin (Stenella frontalis), approximately 11-12 years of age, estimated weight at 140 lbs. As the animal was dehydrated and listless, the team was able to administer fluids along with antibiotics. Although his health status was assessed as critical but stable, survivability of this animal was questionable given its health status, behavior pattern, predation risk and isolation from its pod. Preparations for rescue were initiated and the team remained with the animal until dark. The Atlantis Assessment Team and local volunteers returned to the site at first light the following morning but the dolphin was not seen. Two hours of searching and circling of islands yielded no sightings and the Team returned to shore.
The next day, Atlantis received notification that the spotted dolphin they treated had re-stranded about 30 miles from the last sighting on the eastern end of Great Stirrup Cay. Island personnel found the animal dry-stranded on the beach at low tide but acted quickly to construct a sea pen to contain the animal and protect it from sharks. Their fast action most likely saved this animal’s life. Approval was given by the Department of Marine Resources to intervene and transport the animal by sea plane to the Atlantis Animal Rescue Center at Dolphin Cay. The team remained with the animal overnight, administering fluids and antibiotics, in preparation for transport the next day.
The animal arrived at Atlantis on August 30th and was placed into a shaded, medical isolation pool and treated for dehydration and sunburn. It was stable but listless with shallow breathing and not eating. It was able to control its buoyancy but only with some support. The team officially began the API 24hr critical care protocol. They gave fluids and antibiotics on this eve and started nutritional support in the days following.
On-Property Rehabilitation Journey (Two Months Approx.)
Beginning with intensive care treatment to stabilize the dolphin with round-the-clock care, continuous observation was given for the first two weeks of his arrival. After a few weeks, the dolphin was released from “intensive care” and entered the formal “recovery” phase. Slowly, but surely, the dolphin began to eat on his own and the team could see the gradual improvement in body condition and weight gain. The Atlantis team named the dolphin M&M (Modern Miracle!).
M&M’s behavior eventually returned to being bright, alert and observant. His resting posture returned to a normal horizontal position, once again he was able to deep dive to the pen bottom and had gained 20 lbs., back to a healthy weight. He was chasing live fish, mostly during early morning daylight hours.
After a full recovery, the Department of Marine Resources approved a release and on October 29th, the Atlantis Team released M&M into his hometown waters near Bimini. M&M has already traveled over 300 miles in less than 52 hours!