CLEARWATER — A weak and malnourished baby dolphin that was rescued on a local beach on the Fourth of July is being nursed back to health at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.
Beachgoers noticed a small, young dolphin struggling ashore Friday on Redington Beach. Aquarium workers helped the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission in rescuing the animal, identified as a female Atlantic spotted dolphin.
Aquarium workers and volunteers are working to stabilize the 4-foot-long dolphin, providing it with medical care and fluids. Upon arriving at the facility Friday, the dolphin had little strength and couldn't swim on its own. By Monday, it was more alert and was able to swim on its own for a few minutes at a time.
Experts believe that, based on the animal's weight, it was without its mother for about a week.
"The medical team is pleased with the progress thus far, but there are several unknowns as we continue rehabilitation and treatment," said David Yates, the aquarium's CEO. "We want to thank the bystanders who reported the stranding to FWC for taking appropriate action, as stranded marine life are generally ill or injured and need immediate medical attention."
The Clearwater aquarium has three dolphins in permanent residence — Winter, Hope and Nicholas. All three are Atlantic bottlenose dolphins that can't be released into the wild due to the threat of injury or illness, the aquarium says.
"Dolphin calves run everything through their mother. When a young calf comes in without their mother, we become the adults that teach them how to survive," said aquarium spokeswoman Amy Binder. "We don't know what the future holds for this dolphin. Right now we're just focused on treatment and rehabilitation."