On Tuesday, November 10 2009, in the aftermath of hurricane Ida, a male, juvenile Atlantic bottlenose dolphin was found stranded on a remote beach in Gulf Shores, Alabama. Local officials contacted the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies (IMMS), the designated marine mammal stranding response organization for the area. Upon arrival, the IMMS team found the 190 lb. dolphin stranded 150 yards from the water line. It was estimated that the dolphin had been out of the water for at least 4 hours but his vital signs were stable. Without blood testing, there was no way to accurately assess the health of the dolphin. Because he was lethargic and very weak, IMMS’s attending veterinarian, Dr. Connie Chevis determined that the dolphin should be transported to the Center for Marine Education and Research for a thorough examination and monitoring.
After collecting numerous medical diagnostic samples, it was determined that the dolphin, named “Moke” (Hawaiian for “saved from the sea”) was suffering from stomach and respiratory problems, which most likely led to his stranding. Moke was placed in a temporary quarantine pool so that he could be treated medically, and monitored 24 hours a day for the first week of his rehabilitation. Moke’s health continued to improve, and so did his appetite! His diet of capelin and herring ranged anywhere from 12 pounds to 17 pounds of fish each day. Dr. Chevis was able to successfully treat all of Moke’s health problems, but there was still concern about his future due to his young age. Many juvenile dolphins are determined to be non-releasable by NOAA Fisheries, because of their young age and the uncertainty of their skill development for foraging, defense, and socialization in the wild.
When the final decision was made to deem Moke non-releasable, he was moved into a larger pool and the Animal Care staff at IMMS began training him several times a day. Moke was very smart and caught on to things quickly. Due to the oil spill and to provide Moke with a companion, he was sent to the Navy’s marine mammal facility in San Diego, CA where he is doing very well.