Risso’s dolphin – June 1999

The third live dolphin was found on June 8th 1999, with IMMRAC being better equipped to aid stressed animals. It was a female Risso’s dolphin that stranded at Ga’ash-Shfayim beach, together with a younger individual, possibly her calf. The latter was successfully re-floated by beach-goers and swam away, but the female stayed on shore. The phenomenon of double stranding is not rare, sometimes a healthy individual, especially if kin-related, will accompany a sick one to shore, and often may stay there for several hours or even long enough to lose its life.

Upon arrival, the rescue team placed the dolphin on a custom-made stretcher and moved it to the shallows, keeping her blowhole above water the whole time. Weak and stressed animals often lack the power to keep themselves above water, and need support to allow free breathing. Holding stranded dolphins in the water, until a course of action is decided upon, in consultation with a vet, serves a dual purpose:

1) It allows the animal to fully inflate its lungs (which it usually cannot do on land because of partial rib-cage collapse under its own weight (especially in this species which may weigh up to 340 kg).

2) Preventing sunburns on their sensitive skin

After arranging for transportation with the help of Nature and Parks Authority wardens, the dolphin was transferred on a wet mattress and covered with wet towels to IMMRAC’s rehabilitation center, at Michmoret. The dolphin was then put into a pool on a stretcher, which kept the blowhole above water (link to: Gg female in pool 0609.jpg). IMMRAC's chief vet, Dr. Shlomi Amiel, administered fluids, vitamins and sedatives and took preliminary blood samples. The blood tests indicated infection; therefore she was given some antibiotics. IMMRAC’s volunteers attended to the dolphin around the clock, supervised by the vets, moving her in the tank, keeping her wet and recording the breathing rate (a rough index of stress & general wellbeing). Despite efforts, around 10 A.M. on the next morning, the dolphin started to contort and thrash her head in the water before breathing her last.

It is important to mention that even in the world's largest & most experienced rescue centers, the number of sick dolphins which manage to recover, is small. Most stranded animals are in a very poor physiological state, which is very hard to reverse. Nevertheless, even this small success rate is what encourages us to keep trying!

During autopsy, 2 large plastic bags, some nylon peaces and a few squid beaks (the main diet component of this species) were found in the first (of three) stomach chambers. The plastic bags most probably interfered with the passage to the other chambers, if not blocking it altogether. Several ulcers were found on the skin, with bacterial colonies at their edges. Edema was diagnosed in the lung, along with acute pneumonia & bronchitis. According to the pathologists, the deep infected skin wounds could cause endotoxins (released by the disintegration of bacteria) to enter the general circulation, which on top of the animal's poor nutritional state may have brought its demise.

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