In a well-coordinated effort, a young dolphin was set free after being entangled in debris along the Georgia coast near Savannah.
Members of the Southeast Regional Marine Mammal Stranding Network successfully captured the juvenile female bottlenose dolphin on Tuesday and removed a black rubber strap that was wrapped around its head, averting a life-threatening injury. The origin of the debris and how it became wrapped around the dolphin are unknown.
Biologists from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources were alerted to the problem in 2007 when a group of University of Georgia educators and students photographed it during a class field trip. After careful monitoring, the decision was made to capture the juvenile dolphin to remove the rubber strap.
The juvenile dolphin was located in the Wilmington River, part of the intra-coastal waterway near Savannah, Georgia. The team then completed the disentanglement, removing the strap of rubber that was wrapped around the area between its flippers and blowhole.
The team included scientists from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, NOAA, Savannah State University, University of Georgia Marine Extension, Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, the Georgia Sea Turtle Center and others, began by carefully capturing the dolphin. An experienced marine mammal veterinarian gave the animal a complete physical exam and removed the rubber strap. The dolphin was then released into the river.
"The animal would almost certainly have died without intervention," said Wildlife Biologist Clay George. "We are pleased that the outcome was positive and we hope to monitor the recovery of the animal over time."
A small tag was attached to the dolphin’s dorsal fin so that biologists can recognize the it in the future.
The injury is an example of the growing threat of marine debris to mammals and other marine animals in ocean waters.
"We launched a rescue effort for this dolphin because the animal was entangled in marine debris and the entanglement was life-threatening," said Jenny Litz, a NOAA Fisheries biologist. "As the dolphin was growing, the piece of rubber was tightening around its body and could have lead to infection."
For additional information, visit the Georgia Department of Natural Resources: www.georgiawildlife.com NOAA’s Fisheries Service: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov NOAA Marine Debris Program: http://www.marinedebris.noaa.gov.
-submitted by the DNR