A Dolphin Christmas Story
On December 24, 2002, a female Atlantic bottlenose dolphin and male calf stranded near Gibsonton, Florida and were transported to the Florida Aquarium and then relocated to Clearwater Marine Aquarium for long-term medical care.
In honor of their Christmas Eve arrival, we named the cow Noelle and her calf, Nicholas. The 380-pound adult female, Noelle, had sustained third degree burns around her dorsal fin and was believed to have respiratory illness. Unfortunately, she passed away on December 27, 2002.
The 120-pound orphaned calf, Nicholas, lost 30 lbs. on arrival and was also suffering from second and third degree sunburns across 36% of his body. Nicholas was provided 24-hour care for several months to provide nutrition, antibiotics and wound care.
Nicholas was estimated to be six months old and due to the fact that he was not fully weaned, a specific formula was produced to imitate his mother’s milk until he could be weaned onto whole fish. With the help of constant wound care management, Nicholas’ burns healed within nine months and care specialists were able to successfully teach Nicholas to present voluntary body examination layouts, blood draws and stretcher work.
Home at Clearwater Marine Aquarium
Nicholas did not make a suitable candidate for release because of his dependent status at the time of his stranding and rehabilitation. He lacks the necessary survival skills, such as hunting and the skills to protect himself from predators, all of which he can only learn from his mother. Atlantic bottlenose dolphin calves associate with their mothers for several years and during that time they will learn all the necessary life skills needed to survive in the wild.
Today, Nicholas is smart and energetic. He loves figuring out problems during training sessions and is known for doing a flip or two when he gets an answer right. Make sure you visit Nick at the stranding deck on your next visit!