MARATHON, Fla. (AP) — A rescued juvenile bottlenose dolphin, flown from Texas to the Florida Keys-based Dolphin Research Center seven weeks ago, was moved to the facility’s primary dolphin lagoon Thursday.
The transfer marks the male marine mammal's final integration into a “forever family” of other permanent dolphin residents.
Ranger convalesced in a medical quarantine pool specially designed to increase his eating and weight, while strengthening both his immune system and his bond with human caregivers.
He was rescued a year ago after being discovered stranded in waters around Goose Island State Park in Texas, suffering from an underlying respiratory infection and dehydration following his mother’s death.
After determining that Ranger hadn't learned enough eating and survival skills from his mother to successfully live in the wild, National Marine Fisheries chose Dolphin Research Center in Marathon as his forever home.
To safely maneuver Ranger from quarantine, DRC staff employed a special marine mammal stretcher and placed him into the natural Florida Bay water of the facility’s main lagoon. Several dolphins in neighboring pools observed as Ranger speedily explored his new home, taking in their sonar signals for the first time since arriving at the rehabilitation facility in late March.
It took less than an hour for Ranger to begin interacting and accepting food from Linda Erb, DRC’s vice president of animal care and training.
“We were surprised he decided to eat within 45 minutes of getting in the pool,” Erb said. “He hasn’t heard dolphin sounds for over a year."