JU student Marshalluna Hudson, Prof. Rose Borkowski take part in dolphin rescue
Marshalluna Hudson, a first-year Masters of Science student at the Jacksonville University Marine Science Research Institute and a volunteer with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, recently took part rescuing and disentangling a dolphin calf swimming with a Frisbee-like object around its head.
Hudson assisted with searching for the calf and mom in the upper St. Johns River Feb. 20 and setting the net for both from the “catch boat.”
Meanwhile, Dr. Rose Borkowski, an associate professor and veterinarian in JU’s Department of Biology and Marine Science, served on the veterinary team that assessed and treated the calf’s injury, and provided medical support for the mother dolphin and calf during the capture process.
The object, called an aerobie, was cutting into the dolphin near the dorsal fin and could have created a life-threatening wound. It was removed, the calf’s wound was treated with antibiotics, and the pair was released to rejoin their pod.
JU students and faculty are involved with supporting the Southeast Region Stranding Network, which provides assistance to ill or injured dolphins and whales,” Borkowski said. “JU also participates in population surveys and other research involving bottlenose dolphins that inhabit the St. Johns River.
The young dolphin was initially spotted by collaborating scientists from the University of North Florida.
“Because of the potentially serious nature of the constricting object around the calf’s neck, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration organized an intervention effort, requested my help as a veterinarian, and FFWC requested Marshalluna’s assistance as well,” Borkowski said.
“It is extremely important for people to realize that bottlenose dolphins, as well as manatees and other wildlife, can suffer serious, even fatal injuries when fishing line, rope, trash bags and other types of debris are discarded in the water,” she said. “The animals may become entangled, preventing them from swimming freely. Sometimes entanglements cause deep lacerations, infections and even drowning of marine mammals. These animals may also ingest foreign objects left in the water, potentially leading to gastrointestinal obstruction.”
Participating agencies included the U.S. Navy, Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Jacksonville Zoo, NOAA Fisheries, Volusia County, Jacksonville University, University of North Florida, Hubbs SeaWorld Research Institute, and the Georgia Aquarium Dolphin Conservation Field Station.
To report a sick, injured or dead marine mammal, call the Southeast Region Stranding Network 24-hour hotline at 1-877-942-5343.