A newborn dolphin calf found alone and in critical condition was rescued and is now on the road to recovery thanks to the dedication of an off-duty police officer in Florida.
While enjoying his time off, the off-duty deputy took to the gulf for a relaxing day of fishing near Hudson, Florida. His relaxation quickly turned to concern, however, as he spotted something struggling in the water below.
Moving closer, the officer realized it was a dolphin calf, the newborn swimming in circles and struggling to get above water to breathe. Unlike fish, who use their gills to breathe underwater, dolphins must frequently breach the surface to fill their lungs.
According to Pasco Sheriff’s Office, the baby dolphin was just days, maybe even hours, old. Dolphin calves are entirely dependent on their mothers for a minimum of 1 to 2 years and stay under her protection for an additional 1 to 4 years.
As such, there was no way this one could survive on its own. And sadly, its mother was nowhere in sight.
It’s not clear how the calf became separated from his mother. It’s possible, however, that the pair encountered a fishing boat, forcing the mother to flee.
Dolphin calves stay close to their mother’s side, especially in the early days of life. This allows them to use drafting, similar to a cyclist, to reduce the effort necessary to swim.
Fleeing from fishing boats can disrupt this positioning, causing the dolphin calf to become permanently separated from its mother. This, unfortunately, leaves the baby vulnerable to predation, starvation, and drowning.
Dolphin calf on the road to recovery at SeaWorld
Thankfully, the off-duty officer spotted the dolphin calf in the nick of time, contacting the Pasco Sheriff’s Office’s Maritime Operations Unit (MAROPS) for help.
After transferring the tiny dolphin to the MAROPS boat, officers wisely wrapped the cetacean in a blanket and continuously poured water over it, ensuring it stayed wet.
Though dolphins have to surface for oxygen, they also require water to live. Out of the water, they become dehydrated, which can quickly become fatal.
With the dolphin calf aboard the ship, officers rushed back to shore, where rescuers from Clearwater Marine Aquarium awaited their arrival. From there, wildlife officials transported the dolphin to SeaWorld Orlando’s rescue department.
At the time of its arrival, the dolphin calf was in critical condition and close to death. In the days since its rescue, however, it’s regained some strength and shown signs of improvement. The little dolphin is now swimming on his own and drinking from a bottle.
“This baby (and others like him) would not have a chance if not for the incredible rescue work and partnership of accredited zoological facilities and the Southeast Stranding Network who come together to do what is best for animals every day,” SeaWorld said in a statement.
As Pasco Sheriff’s Office explained, it’s crucial to maintain your distance, should you come across an animal in distress. Rather than approaching it yourself, always contact the proper authorities for assistance.