Stranded dolphin to move to new home

Mote staff and volunteers took Taz in at Mote's Dolphin and Whale Hospital after he was found stranded off Sanibel Island. CREDIT: Mote Marine Laboratory

The young bottlenose dolphin brought to Mote after stranding on a sandbar off Sanibel Island will soon be moving to a new permanent home.

“Taz,” a male dolphin estimated to be about 6-months-old at stranding, was brought to Mote’s Dolphin and Whale Hospital after being found Jan. 13 on a sandbar in the J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island.

Why Taz stranded remains uncertain, but rescuers found him separated from his mother, who was not in sight. Bottlenose dolphin calves typically stay with their mothers until they are 3- to 6-years-old, depending on them for food, protection, and to help them learn how to feed independently and safely navigate the environment.

Without a parent to guide him, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) who oversee the protection of wild marine mammals have determined Taz could not survive on his own and should not be returned to the wild.

Instead, Taz will be moving to a new home where he can live with a suitable social group. NMFS selected the Indianapolis Zoo for several reasons, including opportunity for Taz to socialize with adult females almost immediately, as well the highly experienced husbandry and veterinary team there. Taz will live with seven other dolphins, including two males and three females.

“The social dynamics of our dolphin group will provide the opportunity for Taz to become a member of a real dolphin ‘family,’” said Robert Shumaker, vice president of Life Science at the Indianapolis Zoo. “We anticipate that more than one of our adult dolphins will help with his adjustment to the group.

“Taz has gained over 20 pounds at Mote, which speaks volumes about the time, effort and expertise devoted to his recovery. We are happy to be in a position to partner with them in this case.”

Details about the move are still being finalized, but it is expected to take place soon.

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