Posted by: The ocean update | February 25, 2016

Stranded dolphin to remain at Gulf World (Florida, USA)

Halo the dolphin will be making her permanent home at Gulf World by Dolphin Discovery in Panama City Beach.

Halo the dolphin will be making her permanent home at Gulf World by Dolphin Discovery in Panama City Beach.

February 25th, 2016 (Amanda Banks). Halo the dolphin will make her permanent home at Gulf World by Dolphin Discovery.

PANAMA CITY BEACH — Halo the dolphin will make her permanent home at Gulf World by Dolphin Discovery.

Halo, a female juvenile bottlenose dolphin, came to Gulf World on June 28, 2015, after becoming stranded on Panama City Beach. She had numerous parasites and developed aspiration pneumonia after rough surf forced salt and sand into her blowhole.

“We are thankful that she survived,” said Sam Tuno, marketing and public relations coordinator for Gulf World.

While Tuno and Gulf World zoological director Secret Holmes-Douglas said Halo is doing well now, the dolphin was deemed non-releasable by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association Fisheries (NOAA) due to significant hearing loss and mother dependency, Tuno said. The two also reported a relapse of Halo’s pneumonia set back her recovery and probably contributed to her non-releasable status.

“Our number one goal is always to release any animal that comes into our care,” Holmes-Douglas said,

Ed Sibylline : yes, definitely, it’s why they interact asap with public, see the other stolen dolphin Stan, a rough-toothed dolphin (link).

but animals must meet several health guidelines set by NOAA before Gulf World is allowed to release them.

Ed Sibylline : What is the process for placement of non-releasable marine mammals ? (source)

A brief summary of the placement process is outlined below :

  1. The stranding center makes a recommendation of non-releasability. (Ed Sibylline : is there not a conflict of interests when the “facility” belongs to the industry of captivity ?)
  2. The appropriate NOAA Fisheries Regional Office makes a non-releasability determination.
  3. NOAA Fisheries, Office of Protected Resources (OPR) makes a placement determination :
    1. If the stranding center is also a marine mammal holder, they are consulted regarding the option to retain the animal in their permanent collection.
    2. If the stranding center is not a marine mammal holder or the decision is made by OPR that the animal should be transferred out of the stranding center, other placement options are sought.
      1. For cetaceans – interested facilities answer a questionnaire based on the specific needs of the individual animal.
      2. For pinnipeds – OPR consults a list of interested facilities and contacts the next facility on the list.
  4. The receiving facility submits a letter of intent to accept the animal into their collection.
  5. The USDA Animal Plant and Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is consulted regarding Animal Welfare Act (AWA) compliance history.
  6. OPR issues a letter of transfer to the receiving facility.

Comment Drew S. (Cetal Fauna) : While the determination isn’t always clear (as these meetings and conference calls are never public), there are usually about 6-10+ people on the call using veterinary records, rescue organization accounts, policy experts and more.

Its not always a clear cut reasoning, but the determination must be made by NMFS; they make the final judgement, no one else is responsible for the decision. You can have input, but the choice belongs to the governmental agency.

Ed Sibylline : what are the bonds between industry of captivity and NOAA/NMFS ?

While Gulf World has rehabilitated and released many animals, Tuno said it is “a rare thing” for a dolphin to survive stranding at all.

Ed Sibylline : there is a contradiction between “many” and “a rare thing” and it’s not rare “at all” when competent medical care is provided, in a disinterest way !

“It’s going to take her a little time to adjust,” Holmes-Douglas said. “We’ll just take her one day at a time until she acclimates to the other animals,”

Gulf World’s marine mammal staff is in the process of socializing Halo with the other dolphins in the Dolphin Stadium habitat where she will live. So far she’s met two mother-daughter pairs — Maya and Angel and Luna and the park’s newest calf, which is only a few weeks old and still unnamed.

“She’s doing much better socializing with the other animals,” Holmes-Douglas said.

Staff also are training Halo in husbandry behaviors for voluntary medical physicals. The training includes teaching Halo about giving blood samples, blowhole samples and other “medical behaviors.”

“Those are the most important behaviors we train the animals on,” Holmes-Douglas said.

Officials hope to eventually use Halo as an educational animal in the dolphin shows, sharing how they found her and took care of her.

“We want to tell that story,” Holmes-Douglas said.

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