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 user 2005-05-06 at 10:12:00 am Views: 73
  • #9225

    Rehabilitated Dolphins Released in Florida

    KEY LARGO, Fla. (May 05) – Seven rehabilitated rough-toothed
    dolphins were released Tuesday off the Florida Keys, two months after stranding
    on a mud flat near Marathon in the middle Keys.

    Marine Mammal Conservancy volunteers took the dolphins to a
    point in the Atlantic Ocean about 14 nautical miles off Key Largo in two
    catamaran dive boats. They were released almost simultaneously and stayed
    together, and were seen foraging for food.

    The day was a triumph for the MMC volunteers, who invested
    thousands of hours in the rehabilitation effort, working round-the-clock.

    “This is the day we live for,” said Robert Lingenfelser,
    MMC president. “This is all the payoff for all the hard work, the dedication of
    our volunteers and the Florida Keys community.”

    The mammals were among 68 that grounded March 2. Thirty-six
    of the dolphins died on the beach or in the water, but 32 were treated at three
    South Florida marine mammal centers. Five are still being treated. It is not
    known when they will be released.

    Before their release, each animal was fitted with a VHF
    radio transmitter and two had satellite transponders. The tracking gear should
    automatically fall off in about six weeks, Gomez said.

    Marine mammal experts still do not know why the animals
    stranded. Some conjecture that sonar, from a Navy submarine operating off the
    Keys around the time of the stranding, may be to blame.

    “We don’t have a smoking gun,” said Sarah Gomez, a
    biologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Fisheries
    service. She said it could take up to a year before a final report is