Deaf dolphin’s 5-day-old calf dies
KEY LARGO, Florida (AP)—The newborn calf of a deaf bottlenose dolphin that was found stranded last fall off a Florida beach died Friday at a marine mammal rehabilitation center.
Veterinarians and volunteers had noticed Thursday that the 5-day-old calf’s breathing was labored and it was struggling to swim. They stayed through the night nursing it and administering drugs, said Robert Lingenfelser, president of the Marine Mammal Conservancy.
“Everything that could have been done was done,” Lingenfelser said. “There is a profound sense of sadness here.”
He said the body of the male calf was being sent to a National Marine Fisheries laboratory for a necropsy.
Its mother, nicknamed Castaway, was found stranded off Vero Beach in November. She was initially deemed healthy enough for release, but instead of swimming offshore, she returned to the beach three times. The dolphin was eventually transported to the center in the Keys, where she was determined to be deaf.
Lingenfelser said that Castaway appeared to be in good condition Friday, but that veterinarians had drawn blood for testing.
Researchers had hoped to use technology to teach the baby to vocalize normally despite Castaway’s disability.
Castaway had been vocalizing to the calf, but officials at the Marine Mammal Conservancy said that wouldn’t be enough for it to learn proper dolphin-speak.
“Castaway’s vocalizations are not normal,” Lingenfelser said. “She speaks in a monotone, similar to the way that people who cannot hear speak.”
So researchers electronically linked Castaway’s habitat with a lagoon at Dolphins Plus, a research and interactive educational facility a few miles away. Underwater speakers and microphones were installed at both locations so the calf could communicate with hearing dolphins.
However, because of the calf’s death, the experiment never was put to the test.
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