Missing Gulfport dolphins rescued following Hurricane Katrina
September 16, 2005
GULFPORT, Mississippi (Reuters) – Wildlife experts on Thursday began rescuing a group of eight bottlenose dolphins swept from their aquarium home into the Gulf of Mexico by Hurricane Katrina.
Gulfport, Miss., showing the damage to the port there. Photo courtesy of NOAA
Two sea otters and 19 penguins from the New Orleans Aquarium have been sent to Monterey Bay Aquarium. The aquarium will start providing updates on the animals once they have been stabilized. There are currently no plans to place them on exhibit at Monterey Bay.
Monterey Bay Aquarium release
Surviving animals from the New Orleans will find new homes according to aquarium spokeswoman Melissa Lee. Despite escaping Hurricane Katrina with little physical damage, the Aquarium of the Americas in New Orleans suffered significant loss of animal life when the facility’s emergency generator failed and made conditions unlivable for most its animals.
San Diego has been hit by hurricanes in the past and may be affected by such storms in the future according to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). While a hurricane in San Diego would likely produce significantly less damage that Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, it could still exact a high cost to Southern California especially if the region was caught off guard.
Moby Solangi, president of the Marine Life Oceanarium in Gulfport, Mississippi, said two of the dolphins, 30-year-old Jackie and her 16-year-old offspring, Toni, had been rescued.
Six others, including Jackie’s 5-year-old son, Elijah, were still in the Gulf and would be rescued over the next few days.
“They all look good. They’re coming right up to the boats,” said Jeff Siegel, director of operations at the oceanarium.
Teams of oceanographers and Coast Guard officers used orange rafts equipped with mattresses to transport Jackie and Toni to shore where an air-conditioned van made the short trip to temporary quarters in a Holiday Inn swimming pool.
They will then be transported to other aquariums in the country in salt-water tanks that will be provided by the U.S. Navy.
A wave estimated to be 40 feet high swept the sea mammals from their tank at the oceanarium and into the Gulf when Katrina struck on August 29, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries Service said.
The dolphins were spotted in the Gulf, off the Mississippi coast on Saturday and appeared to have survived the cataclysm but Solangi said some appeared to be underweight while others had scratches.
Because they lived in captivity and do not know how to forage for food, they are being fed several times a day from a boat by oceanarium workers.
Of 26 sea lions kept at the facility, five are dead, one is missing and the other 20 have gone to other aquariums, mostly in Florida. A seal is also was missing.
A crumpled support arch for the oceanarium’s dome was all that was left standing amid a scene of coastal destruction.
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