Mote staff and specially trained volunteers keep an eye on Edna on the way to release. From left front: Lynne Byrd, Mote medical care and rehabilitation coordinator; Jenna Rouse, animal care technician; Gretchen Lovewell, manager of Mote's Stranding Investigations Program; Cyndi Seamon, Mote volunteer; Connie Murk, senior animal care technician. Photo by Mote Marine Laboratory.
Dr. Randy Wells (right), director of the Sarasota Dolphin Research Program, attaches a satellite tag to Edna's dorsal fin. The Program, a partnership between Mote and the Chicago Zoological Society and Mote, will be following Edna in the wild thanks to this tagging technology. Photo by Mote Marine Laboratory.
Satellite tag will show Edna's progress. Public may follow along online at www.mote.org/edna
, where maps of her travels will be posted
Edna, the bottlenose dolphin being rehabilitated at Mote Marine Laboratory after stranding on Longboat Key, was released from a boat at about 7:30 a.m. two miles offshore Tuesday morning (8-14-12).
"It was excellent to see her return home," said Lynne Byrd, medical care and rehabilitation coordinator at Mote. "We watched her get her bearings for a moment and then she seemed to be showing some fishing behaviors - that's a good sign."
Edna stranded June 6 on Longboat Key and was found by volunteers who work with Mote's Sea Turtle Patrol, who were checking on washed out nests on the Key. They called Mote for instructions and helped keep the animal safe until a team from the Sarasota Dolphin Research Program could arrive to stabilize the dolphin.
Rescuers from Mote's Stranding Investigations Program and the Sarasota Dolphin Research Program brought the dolphin to Mote's Dolphin and Whale Hospital, a nationally recognized facility that has provided critical care to 70 dolphins and small whales.
When Edna arrived at the hospital, she was dehydrated, severely underweight, had pneumonia, gastritis and problems with multiple other organ systems.
Edna, estimated to be 2 to 6 years old, weighed about 165 pounds when she arrived. At release, she weighed about 240 pounds.
During her stay, Edna received around-the-clock care from Mote staff and volunteers, many of whom worked long shifts in the middle of the night. Their hard work shows how Mote goes to great lengths to help animals in need. She was also visited by famed M*A*S*H star, Emmy-award winning actress and animal advocate Loretta Swit.
By early August, Edna's swimming improved and she was feeding on her own. A panel of experts reviewed her case and Mote received final permission to release her from the National Marine Fisheries Service, part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. This government agency manages the protection of wild dolphins and whales.
Edna was released offshore of Sarasota, in an area that should provide appropriate habitat. She is not part of the highly local population of dolphins that has been monitored since 1970 by the Sarasota Dolphin Research Program (a collaboration between the Chicago Zoological Society and Mote), but biological and genetic tests suggests she spends time near the coast.
And Edna's story won't end with her release. She was satellite tagged by the Sarasota Dolphin Research Program; the tag will send readings to a satellite and then onto Program staff, which will allow scientists and the public to follow Edna at sea for the next 60 to 100 days.
The tag will show where Edna goes, how deep she dives, when and for how long, and what water temperatures she encounters.
"This satellite tagging technology really enables us to determine the success of our rehabilitation and release," said Dr. Randy Wells, director of the Sarasota Dolphin Research Program. "And it will also allow us the opportunity to learn more about the behavior of a dolphin that spends most of its time further offshore than our Sarasota Bay dolphins."
Mote's Dolphin and Whale Hospital needs support from the public to keep making a difference for animals like Edna, and to be ready at a moment's notice when the next dolphin or whale needs our help. To support these vital efforts, you can donate at www.mote.org/hospitalhelp
or by contacting Barbara Meyer at 941-388-4441, ext. 309.