Beached dolphin gets second chance thanks to Marine Mammal Center
By Elise Kleeman
Santa Cruz Sentinel
18th November 2004
A young dolphin named Baker D was released into Monterey Bay on Wednesday morning, two months after he was found washed ashore on a San Francisco beach.
For volunteers and staff members of the Marine Mammal Center, who nursed Baker D back to health, it was a joyous occasion. Rarely do cetaceans — marine mammals like whales, dolphins, and porpoises — survive once they are sick or injured enough to become beached.
"We’re really, really happy over here at the Marine Center, because this is a success story," said Jim Oswald, communication manager for the Sausalito-based centre. "Especially for cetaceans, because for every one that survives there are 10 or 15 that don’t."
Baker D, a bottlenose dolphin, was released near a pod of 20 or 30 bottlenose dolphins. Marine biologists will monitor his location over the next few months using information sent from a satellite transmitter attached to the fin on his back.
When he was found on Sept. 15 at Baker Beach, west of the Golden Gate Bridge, Baker D was underweight, dehydrated, and wounded. It looked "like he had been picked on by a couple animals," Oswald said.
Becoming stranded caused Baker D more problems, including organ and muscle damage, Oswald said. The 8-foot dolphin was too weak to swim for the first few days after his rescue, and had to be suspended in his pool in a sling.
After three weeks of medication, feeding, and round-the-clock care, "we noticed he was getting much better, that he was regaining much of his strength," Oswald said. But to complete his rehabilitation, he needed more swimming room.
Veterinarians decided to move the dolphin from the marine centre’s main hospital to UC Santa Cruz’s Long Marine Lab. They loaded him into a sling in a special metal carrier and kept him moist during the trip with damp towels on his back.
Once at the Long Marine Lab, Baker D continued his recovery for another six weeks before his release Wednesday.
"Baker D hung in there. We were able to solve some of his problems," Oswald said.
For the Marine Mammal Center, rescues of cetaceans like Baker D are very rare. They account for about 2 percent of all the animals it sees. California sea lions are the most common patients, followed by elephant seals. Over the past 30 years, the centre has treated more than 9,000 animals.
Baker D didn’t hang around to thank his rescuers after they motored out into Monterey Bay and released him back into the ocean, Oswald said.
"Once he was put over the side of the boat, he swam rapidly away toward the pod, and that was it."
Contact Elise Kleeman at email@example.com