Sunday, June 01, 2008

Rescued dolphin makes new friends

Exactly 402 days ago Alice the dolphin had just washed up on a Padre Island National Seashore beach, suffering from pneumonia on a cold and rainy April day.

On Wednesday, after more than a year restricted to a 40,000-gallon tank at the Texas State Aquarium Sea Lab, Alice will go to be with friends -- other marine mammals -- at San Antonio's Sea World of Texas, her caretakers say.

If somehow made aware of the move, she probably would celebrate by flapping enthusiastically against her tank's rubbing rope -- a toy she has adapted to since rehabilitating in captivity.
Alice was rescued from Padre Island National Seashore near Mile Marker 18 on April 7, 2007, said Heidi Watts, state operations coordinator of the Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network. Alice was taken to the Sea Lab, where she has been under the care of veterinarians and the 24-hour supervision of volunteers.

Between 100 and 200 volunteers have kept watch and company with Alice, spending thousands of hours looking after her in six shifts a day.

Despite recovering from pneumonia, Alice has continued to show signs of blood trouble and was not able to be taken off medication, Watts said. Officials decided it would be best for her to remain in captivity because her veterinarians and volunteers don't know what is causing the abnormal blood readings.

"We've just not been able to get her stable enough to maintain normal behavior," Watts said. "We basically did every diagnostic test and consulted with vets across the country, and no one can figure out what's wrong with her."

The move to Sea World will give Alice a chance to interact with other animals -- a necessity after being in isolation for a year, Watts said. Alice has stayed active during her year at the lab, especially taking a liking to rope she's able to scratch and slap.

Her personality is hard to gauge, in part because her human caretakers until recently were instructed to keep their distance in case she was able to be released into the wild.
"She kind of has her moments, and maybe like any other females, she is a little moody," Watts said.

Alice is scheduled to be transferred to Sea World on Wednesday.

Quick "Facts about Dolphins"