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First-of-its-kind dolphin rehab center in Orleans successfully treats first patient

IFAW veterinarian Sarah Sharp treats a dolphin in a custom-built dolphin transport truck.
Andrea Spence / IFAW
IFAW veterinarian Sarah Sharp treats a dolphin in a custom-built dolphin transport truck.

One lucky dolphin is back at sea after becoming the first-ever patient successfully treated at a new short-term marine mammal rehab center in Orleans.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare found a 5-year-old common dolphin stranded on a Brewster beach and transported the animal to the organization’s new Dolphin Rescue Center.

There, Dr. Sarah Sharp, IFAW’s animal rescue veterinarian, confirmed he was suffering from shock, aspiration, and other ailments.

For 20 hours, a team of staff and volunteers gave him round-the-clock supportive care.

"He was very weak to begin with," she said. "And as we walked him around the pool, gave him some additional fluids and some medications to keep him calm, we were able to see him improve."

Before the center opened this fall, the organization had only about an hour to treat stranded animals out of a transport van. Sharp said she probably would have put this animal down if that was all they had.

"I feel fairly confident that this animal would not have survived had our volunteers not done amazing things and gotten this animal righted and out of the surf as quickly as they did. And if we didn't have this facility to be able to provide that additional care for that animal, his fate would have been very different," she concluded.

The dolphin has since been successfully released back to the water —  and outfitted with a temporary satellite tag.

Now, the IFAW team is preparing for their next patient and seeking volunteers at the rehab center before a new training session begins in April.

Eve Zuckoff covers the environment and human impacts of climate change for CAI.