FT. PIERCE, FL - Early Wednesday morning (Feb. 10) at 12:15 a.m., eight (8) days after her arrival at Harbor Branch Oceanographic's Emergency Marine Mammal Care and Rehabilitation Center, "Annie", a young orphaned Stenella dolphin took her last breath and then died quietly while cradled in the arms of professional caregiver Mr. Robin Friday. Several Harbor Branch assisting staff were also present. "I want everyone to know that "Annie" expired peacefully in the company of those who cared for her most." (SDM).
After notifying National Marine Fisheries Service, S.E. Regional Stranding Coordinator, Ms. Blair Mase, "Annie's" corpse was secured for an immediate transfer to Hubbs-Sea World where a team of pathology experts and Harbor Branch Dolphin Research staff will perform a detailed necropsy. Complete pathology and histology results, together with our detailed care and treatment plan records, will then become a part of an international marine mammal database, so that scientists can learn more about these magnificent marine mammals.
While at Harbor Branch, "Annie" received constant around the clock care and observation from a very dedicated and professional staff. Although "Annie's" chances, like many stranded dolphin, were less than 2% from the outset, Harbor Branch made every effort to provide for her recovery.
Stephen McCulloch, Harbor Branch Director of Dolphin Research and Conservation noted, " "Annie" had a tremendous will to survive and fought great odds. She surprised us many times, even eating solid food for the last few days, regaining several pounds of weight. Indeed, the past eight days and nights have been a real roller coaster of emotions for us all. "Annie" shared with us an indomitable spirit, prospects of hope, moments of joy and laughter-- but ultimately great sorrow."
Now, "Annie" serves as an added inspiration for the construction of a "State of the Art" Marine Mammal Care and Research Center, which Harbor Branch will endeavor to build by the end of the Year 2000. The projected cost for the marine mammal facility is $5 million. Harbor Branch President and Managing Director Rick Herman thanked Florida State Representative Rick Minton, who together with Rep. Ken Pruitt have always led in the support of worthwhile Treasure Coast programs in the Florida House of Representatives. Today, Minton is making a state budget request to help the Harbor Branch - based Marine Mammal Care and Rehabilitation Center for the health and wellbeing of dolphin like "Annie" and whales such as "Mulder" who received emergency care at Harbor Branch just last week. We are very grateful for Representative Minton's continued support. Conceptual plans for the facility have already been drawn up. "It will be a much needed marine mammal care facility especially crucial for Florida's east coast," said Herman. "Our goal is to maintain and, in fact, INCREASE the population of wild dolphin not just in Florida waters but worldwide. Too many wild dolphin have died unnecessarily. It's time to reverse that trend. With the support of those who care, we can do it, we WILL do it!" added Herman.
McCulloch adds,"This one incident is not unique. In fact, hundreds of dolphin and whales beach and die along Florida's extensive coastline each year. Since 1974, more than 3000 such incidents have taken place. "Annie's" passing truly underscores the need for such facilities that can extend man's knowledge of his environment, while providing quality care and treatment in a professional setting.
Harbor Branch hopes that sales of the new "Protect Wild Dolphin" specialty license plate, scheduled to go on sale in April 1999, will help to fund not only its efforts, but also those of other authorized stranding facilities and Florida's all volunteer Marine Mammal Stranding Network. "Ultimately, I would like to see a complete network of regionally dispersed centers strategically placed along Florida's coastline with dedicated resources and professional staff. In order to complete this vision, we will need the support of the public, corporations and our legislators in Tallahassee. I fully expect that the public will rally for such a worthy cause," remarked McCulloch, "I would like to extend a special thanks and our heartfelt gratitude for all those who came forward to assist us in this remarkable effort."
Most importantly, I would like to give a very special acknowledgement to Mr. Robin Friday, President of Wildlife International Network (Orlando). Robin was called in and was on-site when "Annie" arrived. Immediately, he worked with us to develop a sound treatment plan and initiated our first line of defense. Throughout, he stayed with us at poolside providing constant care and communication to a consulting staff of medical experts. Never in my 30 years of working with dolphin have I ever witnessed such talent and dedication to the rehabilitation of any animal as I've just witnessed at Harbor Branch. Mr. Friday is a consummate professional in every respect. It was our distinct privilege to have him directing the effort. Also assisting our daily animal care efforts were Ms. Marilyn Mazzoil, Laura Cousin, Brandy Ninesling, Georgia Tyson, Dr. Claudia Harper and Rick Herman.
Harbor Branch would also like to acknowledge noted marine mammal veterinarians Dr. Deke Busse and Dr. Greg Bossart, together with a host of other experts including Ms. Blair Mase of NMFS, Anne Spellman and Jamie Smith of DEP, and Megan Stolen and Dr. Nelio Barros of Hubbs-Sea World. All of these outstanding individuals made themselves available to us, as needed, 24 hours a day. Their added expertise and constant support completed a well-rounded team effort of excellence and gave "Annie" the highest possible chance to live and return to the wild. Preservation of wild dolphins and other marine mammals is why Harbor Branch is dedicating and soliciting resources to ensure that this much needed facility is built. Financial support from the public and private sectors is essential in the effort. If you would like to donate to the dolphin cause please call HBOI, Development Officer, Suzanne Leffew at 561-465-2400, x 225
The above story is based on materials provided by Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.
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