CMA marine mammal trainer Abbie Brewer and Nicholas practice their communication skills.
ISLAND ESTATES – Clearwater Marine Aquarium (CMA) has a new resident in the main dolphin pool. Nicholas, the Bottlenose dolphin rescued as a severely sunburned calf in December 2002, captured the hearts of all who heard his story. Recently, he was moved from the stranding tank into the 350,000-gallon primary dolphin pool open to public viewing. Now, everyone in the area that followed his recovery may visit him and see his progress first-hand.
On July 23, CMA received official word from the National Marine Fisheries Service, the governing agency for placement of unreleasable marine animals, that Nicholas will remain with Clearwater Marine Aquarium. He joins Panama, a female Bottlenose dolphin, already in permanent residence at the aquarium.
Nicholas survived second and third degree burns and the loss of his mother. His serious sunburns required almost eight months of specialized care by the marine mammal team at CMA. While his injuries were treated, Nicholas was isolated to minimize the risk of infection. Today, he is a healthy, 207-pound, young adult, approximately 6-feet long.
“What a great dolphin,” said Dr. Janine Cianciolo, staff veterinarian at Clearwater Marine Aquarium. “He has been through so much with the treatment of his severe burns, yet he still remains friendly with his human caregivers. He was given a complete physical examination during the move, and, while not all of our test results are in, he appears to be in excellent shape.”
The actual process of moving a dolphin from one pool to another requires tremendous orchestration. Glenn Harman, curator and director of animal programs for Clearwater Marine Aquarium, led the team as they surrounded Nicholas in the tank and placed the stretcher around him. The team hoisted the stretcher from the tank and carried it to a platform by the main dolphin pool where the physical exam took place. Dr. Cianciolo remained on standby to handle medical emergencies if any occurred during the process.
“Everything went very smoothly,” Harman said. “Our goal always is to move the animal with the least amount of stress. After a move, we monitor constantly for a minimum of 48 hours for respiration difficulties or other signs of stress. At this point, Nicholas and Panama are both adjusting well to their new situation.”
The move of Nicholas also involved the move of another dolphin. Presley, a 15-year-old Bottlenose dolphin, was on loan to CMA from Sea World properties as a companion for Panama. Presley was moved to a Panama City facility on July 22.