By Randall S. Wells, PhD
Health assessments of Sarasota Bay dolphins were elevated by circumstances to a higher level of urgency this year with the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. In advance of the possible arrival of oil from the spill, we wanted to collect baseline
health information and tissue samples for measurement of contaminant concentrations, for comparison with post-exposure samples. The 2010 bottlenose dolphin health assessment project was conducted successfully during 17-21 May. High among the additional goals for this year’s session was training of veterinarians and local Sarasota residents to be able to participate in a dolphin rescue team should the oil arrive. Over the five days, 109 people participated, and 12 dolphins were captured,
examined, sampled, and released, eight of which were first-time captures, our highest priority. One of the dolphins sampled was Ginger, a dolphin stranded on Siesta Beach in December 2008, rescued by SDRP, rehabbed at Mote Marine Lab, released in February 2009, and observed subsequently by SDRP staff. Her
condition is excellent as compared to other females her size and age. Support for this year’s health assessment project was provided by the Georgia Aquarium Foundation, the Batchelor Foundation, Dolphin Quest, and the Morris Animal Foundation’s Betty White Wildlife Rapid Response Fund.
All photos © Sarasota Dolphin Research Program under NMFS permit #522-1785