Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network

Dedicated to the conservation of marine mammals through rescue and rehabilitation, research and education.

GA1612 - Tursiops truncatus

February 26, 2010 - First thing Friday morning, as TMMSN volunteers and staff were busy attending to Donley's daily routine, a call was received about a live dolphin stranded down on San Luis Pass, in Galveston, TX. The critical care team immediately dispatched and found a very large Bottlenose dolphin struggling to stay upright in the surf. With the help of some beachgoers and others who volunteered to lend a hand from a nearby neighborhood, the large animal was lifted into the back of the rescue truck and transported back to Galveston.

Donley was receiving care inside the Aquacell, TMMSN's current rehab building, and with his clean bloodwork, we did not keep the animals in the same building and risk cross-contamination from the new animal, diagnosis unknown.

A separate, temporary pool complete with temporary plumbing, filtration, and heat was set up as soon as possible to make the new animal comfortable. As soon as GA1612 was put into the pool it was able to swim upright, on its own, without difficulty, although the animal's respirations were obviously elevated. On day 2, the dolphin accepted hand-thrown dead fish readily, and ate several lbs the first few feeds. At every feed thereafter, the animal readily accepted fish without hesitation, this caused us to have a hesitant but hopeful prognosis and the veterinarian recommended we continue to observe the animal.

This is where the TMMSN volunteers really stepped up, and offered to man not one, but TWO 24-hr observation shifts, 1 for each animal (Donley and GA1612). Another 24 hour period passed and the animal's respirations stabilized and continued to exhibit strong swimming behavior. However, on Monday March 1, the fourth day in our care, although the animal appeared to be in fairly good external body condition and swimming strong on his own, this quickly declined. Beginning very early that morning, the animal displayed serious symptoms consistent with a neurological disorder and it became apparent that the animal was suffering. After consultation with the attending veterinarian and much thought the difficult decision was made to euthanize. After a very swift decline in behavior and the display of severe symptoms we felt that if we were to continue the rehab process that it would be prolonging any suffering or pain. We know it was the right decision out of concern for the animal's best interest and although we wish that we never had to make these types of decisions, we recognize that there is a duty and a necessity for us to be able to make the call when needed.

We want to thank the TMMSN volunteers, friends, and supporters that assisted with this difficult task. Dr. Cowan, UTMB pathologist and TMMSN Director, performed the necropsy and necropsy results and findings will be published on this website as soon as they are available.