In May, 2012, we deployed small radio-tags. The goal for the just-completed health assessments was to remove the tags and to examine their potential effects on the dolphins’ health and their dorsal fins.
A highlight for us was to rescue Lizzie, a 16 year old resident female, from fishing line that had already cut almost 3 inches deep into her fluke, and was on its way to severing the fin.
SDRP observers had first seen Lizzie’s fluke entanglement earlier this month, and finding and disentangling her was a priority for us.
After the entangling line was removed and the cuts were treated, Lizzy was examined by veterinarians, and she was deemed to be healthy enough to be released.
Examination of the tag attachment sites on the radio tagged dolphins showed them to be well healed, with no sign of infection more than 2 months after attachment, and the tags were still securely attached to the trailing edges of the fins. The veterinarians did a full health examination, including blood samples, and we’ll await those results to further evaluate the impact of the tags on the dolphins.
The tag attachment research, testing a new design of hydro-dynamically refined, satellite-linked radio-tags, was conducted in collaboration with Wildlife Computers and Dr. Laurens Howle of Bellequant Engineering.
There is a strong need for small satellite-linked tag designs that have minimal impacts to the animals. The tags are useful for research on species or populations that are distant from shore, and for post-release monitoring of stranded or rescued dolphins that have been rehabilitated .
Ours is the first study to look specifically at the impact of small satellite-linked radio tags attached by single plastic pins to the trailing edge of dorsal fins, and it suggests that the new tag designs are having minimal impact on the fins.
All told, 10 Sarasota Bay dolphins were captured, examined by veterinarians, and released during July 16-20, 2012.
The health assessment team totaled 110 researchers, veterinarians, students, and dolphin handlers, with as many as 75 participating each day.
A total of 15 veterinarians cycled through during the health assessments from multiple universities, agencies, and organizations.
The July 2012 health assessments were primarily funded by the Office of Naval Research, and the Georgia Aquarium, and they were conducted under a Scientific Research Permit from the National Marine Fisheries Service.
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