Rescued dolphin transported to new home

Updated: Tuesday, 08 Feb 2011, 9:11 AM CST
Published : Monday, 07 Feb 2011, 6:48 PM CST

Paige Malone
GRASS KEY, Florida (WALA) – The first live oiled dolphin from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill is being acclimated to its new home. Louie was rescued in Louisiana and was given a five percent chance of survival. He was nursed back to health and is now living at the Dolphin Rescue Center in the Florida Keys.

According to the Dolphin Research Center (DRC), Louie, named in honor of his Louisiana roots, was the first live oiled dolphin that was rescued from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

The Louisiana Mammal and Sea Turtle Rescue (LMMSTR) rescued the six-foot, 174 pound dolphin in September on Fourchon Beach, Louisiana. According to Michele Kelly, stranding coordinator for LMMSTR, Louie was given a five percent chance of survival.

“He required over 700 hours of hands on, round the clock care, just to get him swimming and eating on his own, which was the first hurdle. It is rewarding to see that he has fully recovered and has been given a second chance at life through all the hard work and dedication of our team,” said Kelly.

Louie was deemed non-releasable by the federal government because he does not have adequate skills to survive in the wild. That’s when the Dolphin Research Center offered to work with the dolphin and give him a new home.

DRC spent weeks working with the dolphin and getting him ready to join his new family in the Florida Keys. On February 6, the United States Coast Guard provided personnel and a HC-144 Ocean Sentry aircraft to transport him. Lieutenant Commander Travis Burns flew the dolphin to his new home.

“It’s a very unusual mission for us and, at the same time, worthy and positive. My crew and I are proud to be a part of Louie’s transport to his final safe haven,” said Burns.

By 7 p.m., Louie had touched down at the Marathon Airport in Marathon Key Florida where he was loaded into a travel container and transported to the Dolphin Research Center.

BP helped fund the transportation process and their Gulf Coast Restoration Organization’s Vice President Dave Rainey said taking care of the wildlife is a huge priority in the oil spill response.

“We are grateful to the many people and organizations who have worked tirelessly to aid wildlife, including this dolphin,” said Rainey.

In his new home, Louie is one of 23 Atlantic bottlenose dolphins. The DRC said it will take some time to get him acclimated to his new family and environment and they will provide 24-hour monitoring to help him settle in.

The Dolphin Research Center is open daily for the public to come by and see the dolphins and learn about the animals through educational programs.

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