Rescued baby dolphin to get new home

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February 1, 2010 4:04:03 PM PST
A baby dolphin rescued from the Gulf of Mexico is about to have a new home. Donley the dolphin has been living in Galveston while being nursed back to health. He will soon head to SeaWorld in San Antonio. Every year approximately 200 dolphins become stranded on Texas shores, and not all survive. But just three months ago a dolphin calf was found stranded and thanks to a Galveston non-profit group, he's been nursed back to health.

Under a 24-hour watch, young Donley the dolphin has recovered. It was just three months ago that the calf was discovered stranded in south Texas.

State Operations Coordinator Heidi Whitehead said, "He actually showed up on a sandbar in Port Aransas, Texas. A gentleman found him and gave us a call."

His life was saved because someone made a call for help. When the Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network took him in, without his mother to nurse from, he was malnourished and banged up.

"He had some bruising, a hairline fracture on his left side," Whitehead recalled. "So he definitely was having some negative interaction from other dolphins. "

The biggest obstacle to overcome was teaching him to eat. Donley never really took to bottle feedings. So care takers now hand feed him bags of herrings.

"He has four feedings a day," Whitehead said. "He eats about seven pounds of herring each day."

Now Donley is 11 months old and 20 pounds heavier at 150. But it took months and constant care with volunteer students taking different shifts to document his progress.

Volunteer Gavin Baptiste said, "I'm basically monitoring his behavior. I'm also taking respirations, so every time he comes up to take a breath, I mark it."

Though his rehab was a success, Donley lacks survival skills his mother would have taught him, so he is now deemed non-releasable and will soon be adopted by SeaWorld of Texas in San Antonio. While there are no plans for Donley to be on display, his caretakers say he'll enjoy making new friends.

Whitehead described it as, "Kind of like any other young boy. He is very curious about anything that is going on in his tank. If anyone is near the tank ... he will come over to see what you're doing. "

Whitehead says the main reason Donley survived is because someone called rescue crews at 800-9-MAMMAL, allowing them to rehab the young dolphin.


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