Saturday, April 22, 2006

Investigation launched about dolphin's death

The lone Atlantic white-sided dolphin that ventured up the Pawcatuck River and captured the affections of the public died at Mystic Aquarium & Institute for Exploration late Thursday night.
David Labbe, aquarium director of public relations, said Friday that the dolphin died after being rescued from the river and transported to the aquarium.He said aquarium officials have not determined a cause of death."They're usually very sick when we get them.

We try to help them and get them better, but this one was much sicker than we thought," Labbe said.A necropsy, or autopsy, has been scheduled and test results are expected in around three weeks."We don't know if we'll ever know," Labbe said.

After wandering up the river and being spotted by a Westerly boater around 5:30 a.m., the 5.5-foot-long dolphin with white stripes down its gray body drew locals to the river's banks. To the crowd's delight, the animal surfaced occasionally under the Westerly-Pawcatuck bridge in the morning and moved further up the river in the afternoon.

Aquarium officials and volunteers evaluated the dolphin throughout the day and answered questions from the public.Dolphins grow distressed when people touch them, Labbe said, so aquarium officials opted to leave the animal alone as long as it appeared to be healthy and not trapped.The dolphin showed no signs of district until shortly before 7 p.m. when it beached itself in some brush along the riverbank behind the old Hotel Savoy.

"It didn't look like the same dolphin we had earlier," Labbe said.Rescuers were called in and Westerly Ambulance Corps members helped aquarium officials lift the dolphin onto a stretcher and into a boat. They submersed the animal and poured water on it, placing it into a pickup truck for transport to the aquarium.At the aquarium, husbandry officials performed blood tests and placed it in a shallow pool for observation, prior to its death.

Labbe said the dolphin showed some signs of trouble. It did not resist the rescuers, was found at 116 pounds to be underweight and had some abrasions on its body. The species, he added, rarely ventures out alone.Officials said they still do not know why the dolphin traveled up the brackish river."It may have been as simple as it wasn't feeling great and followed some fish up," Labbe said.Labbe reminded members of the public to call the aquarium if they encounter a marine animal. Never attempt to feed or approach the animal, he said.

Quick "Facts about Dolphins"