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Dolphin treated and released by Mote seen with new calf

“Ginger,” a bottlenose dolphin rehabilitated at Mote Marine Laboratory, was observed with a calf that appears to be her first baby on Aug. 6 in Sarasota Bay by the Sarasota Dolphin Research Program (SDRP), which has monitored Ginger since her birth to a well-known resident Sarasota Bay dolphin, including the period since her successful return to the wild in 2009.

Ginger, a Sarasota Bay resident dolphin, stranded at age 3 in December 2008 on Siesta Beach and was brought to Mote’s Dolphin and Whale Hospital, which is dedicated to rehabilitating and releasing sick and injured dolphins and small whales. Ginger was dehydrated and covered with toothrake marks from interactions with other dolphins, and appeared to be suffering from a respiratory condition called bronchopneumonia. All hospitalized dolphins require plenty of care, but Ginger stood out because she refused dead fish, and caregivers fed her with live fish only. Providing live fish helped Ginger to stay as wild as possible and be ready for release, but it required caregivers to go the extra mile.

“While Ginger was in our care, trained Mote volunteers spent 1,320 hours monitoring her condition, providing vital information about her progress,” said Lynne Byrd, Medical Care and Rehabilitation Coordinator at Mote. “Ginger ate nearly 4,000 pinfish during her rehabilitation. She was one of the most labor intensive patients that I’ve had the privilege to work with, and it was obviously well worth our effort!”

Ginger recovered successfully and was released in February 2009 wearing a VHF radio transmitter so she could be easily found and visually monitored by SDRP, a collaborative program between Chicago Zoological Society and Mote. SDRP has studied Sarasota Bay’s dolphins since 1970 and is the world’s longest-running study of a wild dolphin population.

“From the time Ginger was released, she has demonstrated her ability to reintegrate into the local, multi-decadal, multi-generational resident dolphin community and engage in normal dolphin activities,” said Dr. Randall Wells, Director of SDRP.

On Aug. 6, the sight of Ginger with a new calf drove home that she has been thriving as a member of the resident dolphin community in Sarasota Bay.

“Successful reproduction is a very good indication of successful treatment in rehab,” Wells said.

The calf was probably born during the past few weeks. On Aug. 6 it still bore vertical creases from where it was folded in the womb. However it already appears to have a healing wound, perhaps from a boat strike or a shark. SDRP scientists will continue to monitor for both calf and mom.

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