Saturday, January 27, 2007

Rescued dolphin now entertains flocks in show

A dolphin that was rescued from a life-threatening incident 10 years ago has become the star of a show at an oceanfront aquarium in Sakai, Fukui Prefecture.

In January 1997, the Russian tanker Nakhodka ran aground off the Fukui coast spilling oil that spread toward Echizen Matsushima Aquarium, where the dolphin was being raised as a 7-month-old calf.

Dozens of volunteers gathered to clear up the oil using absorbent mats, but to little effect.

All 14 dolphins in the aquarium could have died if the oil had entered their lungs, so the aquarium decided to relocate them.

As for the calf and its mother, a decision was taken to relocate them to Kobe's Suma Aqua Life Park. But Kobe is more than 200 kilometers from Sakai, and it was not known if a calf so young could survive such a journey in a truck.

Aquarium staff were afraid it might die of stress if placed in a container on the truck as he was too young to be tranquilized. In the end, it was decided to place the young dolphin and its mother in separate transparent containers placed alongside each other.

"I told him: 'Hang on! You're traveling with your mother,'" a volunteer said. The calf survived the six-hour journey to the Kobe marine park, where its weight increased from 88 kilograms to 250 kilograms in six months. It was then transferred to the Sakai aquarium.

The dolphin measured 188 centimeters in length last January and had grown to 270 centimeters by July, but Takafumi Suzuki, the aquarium manager, still remembers it as a "cute baby."

He is also grateful to the volunteers. "I would like to tell children about the marvelous bond that developed between the volunteers who saved the dolphins," he said.

He also said the aquarium wanted to publish a book highlighting the various moments when the volunteers came together to protect the dolphins.

Quick "Facts about Dolphins"