Five months after the major oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, a young bottlenose dolphin named Louie was found on a beach in Louisiana covered with oil. He was by himself and barely alive. His body was covered with oil, but it wasn’t in the blowhole or mouth. He was rescued by Louisiana Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Rescue. In Louisiana, 60 dolphins have died since the oil disaster. Louie had only a five percent chance of survival when he was found. The only other oiled dolphin found alive in Louisiana waters didn’t survive the rehabilitation period.
(If you are ever on a beach in Louisiana, and see a stranded marine mammal, call their Mammal and Sea Turtle Rescue Program.)
At Audubon Aquatic Center in New Orleans, Louie had ’round-the-clock care for two and a half weeks. The rescue team cleaned off the oil, but he was so sick he couldn’t float on his own. He had to be held up in the water 24 hours a day in order to breathe properly. He also wasn’t swimming, but at the end of the most dire period, he started eating fish on his own and moving his tail up and down. It took five months and 700 hours of rehabilitation to get him to his current healthy state.
“Part of the reason we named him Louie is to immediately connect him to his Louisiana roots because here you have a little guy who has a real survivor story to tell. He serves as a reminder of the importance of protecting these animals out in the wild and protecting the environment,” said Mary Stella from the Dolphin Research Center. (Source: CNN.com)
Louie is estimated to be less than two years old, and because he was separated from his mother, did not learn how to hunt and defend well enough to become part of a wild dolphin community. So he was moved to Dolphin Research Center on Grassy Key in Florida. A Coast Guard aircraft flew him to the dolphin center, and one of their staff stayed with him in a tank during the flight. He is now six feet long and weighs 174 pounds. If you are in the Florida Keys you can visit him, along with their dolphins. He is probably safer there than in the Gulf where oil drilling continues.