Hey Everyone! I have been unable to post any pics for the past few days due to a live Risso’s Dolphin stranding that happened early Sunday in the Florida Keys. For those who don’t know, I volunteer with an amazing non-profit organization down here in S. Florida called Marine Mammal Conservancy (MMC). They are dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation, release, and research of marine mammals. I have been fortunate enough to have 2 years of experience with them and this was my very first live stranding event!
A bit of background info on the species and individual: Adult, male Risso’s Dolphin named Jojo. Risso’s Dolphin is an offshore species, preys predominately on squid, and adults tend to look like beluga whales (skin almost entirely white) due to rake marks caused by conspecifics.
I arrived around 5pm and stayed till 4am Sunday assisting with whatever I could, such as the activity/behavior log (noting down changes in behavior, environment, heart rate, breath rate, etc). I also assisted in helping the animal stay afloat and it was during this time that I was not only able to interact with a Risso’s Dolphin, but also was given the task to count his heart and breath rate. This is second time I have felt the heartbeat of a marine mammal, and both have been an incredible experience. I got about 3 hrs of sleep and came back at 8am and left around noon simply because even though I could have been there forever, my body definitely needed some rest. Sadly, around the time I got home I found out that Jojo had passed away. I know that every volunteer at MMC utilized all their knowledge, passion, and will to help assist this animal but when it comes to rehabilitation, a loss of an animal is always a possibility. Furthermore, there is a huge knowledge gap when it comes to marine mammals due to the difficulty of studying them in the wild.
I was unsure if I would be able to handle assisting the necropsy but I knew I had to try and I am glad that I did. Necropsies are so vital, in that it provides us with information on their anatomy, health, etc; this information, which can be utilized to maybe even better assist in the rehabilitation of another Risso’s Dolphin. I am glad that I was able to spend the past two days with an amazing animal and equally amazing people. I learned so much and this experience will be with me for a lifetime.
In memory of Jojo.