Since the beginning of 2017, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) has responded to more than 134 stranded dolphins, 61 of which were found dead on our team’s arrival, and 16 that either died after responders arrived on scene or needed to be humanely euthanized to prevent suffering.
Medical examinations and necropsies (animal autopsies) have shown signs of illness, including lung, liver and muscle lesions. Nine dolphins tested positive for exposure to bacteria called Brucella, which can cause infections in the lungs, brains and bones of dolphins.
We are working with diagnostic labs at Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut and the University of Illinois to help test blood and tissue samples to determine whether this type of bacteria is actually causing clinical disease or if other factors may be at play. While we do not believe than an infection itself is necessarily causing the strandings, it could be a contributing factor in reducing a dolphin’s ability to survive a traumatic event like a stranding.
Similarly, the moms and calves that have been stranding more recently may also be more susceptible to the stress and shock of stranding than other demographics. Unfortunately, gulls and coyotes have been readily preying on stranded dolphins that are not reported to our 24-hour hotline fast enough, compounding the losses.
Fortunately not all of the dolphins that stranded this season have been sick or injured, and we have successfully released 46 dolphins and porpoises, including several mom and calf pairs and at least three confirmed pregnant females. For those that have survived the stranding, satellite tags that track their movements after release show positive results, with dolphins returning to typical offshore habitat and even joining up with other satellite tagged dolphins that stranded previously.
Our team is closely monitoring the presence of this bacteria and will keep this blog apprised of further findings.
IFAW’s stranding response is conducted under the authorization of a Stranding Agreement with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
Article source: IFAW