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Born Free USA Global Field Projects

Rescued Dolphins Show Signs of Infection

Published 08/24/11

Born Free's veterinary team examines Tom.
(Photo from Born Free Foundation)

Born Free Foundation and Underwater Research Society of Turkey (SAD) have, today, announced that further medical checks have taken place on the two bottlenose dolphins, Tom and Misha, rescued from a squalid pool in Hisarönü, Turkey, last year.

The dolphins, undergoing a rehabilitation program at a secret location off the Aegean coast, had developed signs of infection.

Tom and Misha’s recuperation had been progressing well but there was a marked change in the past few days and the rehab team took immediate action.

Jeff Foster, the project’s lead consultant, said, "We were concerned at Tom and Misha’s sudden and unexplained loss of appetite. We needed to find out more and minimize any risk so we mobilised the team to isolate each dolphin and carry out a full medical assessment in the specially designed medical pen."

John Knight, Born Free’s senior veterinary consultant, said, "We have done a full clinical examination and taken tests which show evidence of an infection and dehydration. We are still working on understanding the cause but, in the meantime, we are taking precautionary measures to address the most likely possibilities until a more definitive diagnosis can be made. Both the dolphins have taken these procedures really well and are already showing a marked improvement, which is a testament to the care and expertise of the team."

Tom and Misha had only weeks to live when, in September 2010, Born Free and SAD were able to negotiate their release and rescue from a contaminated and filthy pool in the mountain resort of Hisarönü.

They have now spent a year in rehabilitation during which time they have regained much of their fitness, agility and strength, displaying alertness and vigor that had been lost during their time in the pool in Hisarönü.

Although the current health situation is a setback, the team remains confident that Tom and Misha are potentially still excellent candidates for release.

Foster concluded, "We have seen great resilience and determination from these dolphins before and with the support of our dedicated team of professionals, we believe we can achieve the fitness levels necessary for a full release back to the wild later in the year."

Born Free and SAD have publicly condemned the use of dolphins in "swim-with" programs, calling for an end to the exploitation and trade in wild and captive dolphins and an international agreement to prohibit this trade.

Cem Kiraç of SAD, project supervisor, stated, "This is the very first dolphin rescue and rehab program in Turkey and, therefore, its success is key to the continuation of rehab and release programmes for other captive dolphins in Turkey." SAD also has been pushing relevant governmental departments since 2008 to implement strict regulations on dolphins in captivity during a phase-out period and finally to stop dolphinaria operating in the country, based on ethical values as well as for legal and scientific reasons.

Alison Hood, Born Free Foundation's programs director, said, "Respect and care for individuals is at the core of Born Free’s philosophy and this is an example of the lengths that Born Free and SAD are prepared to go to to try and undo the damage caused by captive exploitation. This was never going to be an easy journey – it’s challenging, time-consuming and expensive - but it’s one that we will not give up on."

Tom and Misha have made international news and their story is followed by thousands on Facebook, particularly the Dolphin Angels group based in Fethiye, Turkey, which helped galvanize their rescue and release. Please help us with their rehabilitation.

Read updates about our Hisaronu dolphin project.

See the Hisaronu dolphin project's photo gallery.

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