Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Mother and calf were reunited into the wild

Two dolphins, of a rarely seen species, become the first mother and calf to be released back into the wild after rehabilitation. The Risso’s dolphins, nicknamed Betty and Big Al, beached themselves back on May 4th near Bonita Beach before spending the last five and a half months at the Mote Marine Dolphin and Whale Hospital in Sarasota.

Risso’s dolphins are rarely seen close to shore and little is known about their behavior in the wild. Biologists from Mote Marine say they were able to learn lots of valuable information about how mother dolphins interact with their young.

“We were able to see the mother training the baby how to eat squid, disciplining the baby, the things very hard to see in the wild,” said Randall Wells, a program manager for Mote’s dolphin research program.

Wednesday night a team of marine biologists and volunteers loaded up the pair for a 100 mile voyage out into the Gulf to the edge of the Continental Shelf. By sunrise the teams were ready for release.

“We put the animals in the water within a minute of one another, but the baby stayed near the boat and the mother went away from the boat,” recalled Wells who says the calf would be unable to survive on his own.

After about an hour of waiting the two finally reunited. Crews verified the two were together by VHF monitor before finally heading back to Sarasota. Mote Marine biologists will spend the next several years monitoring the mother by satellite in hopes of learning more about her behavior.

Quick "Facts about Dolphins"