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MARATHON, Fla. (AP) — A rescued juvenile dolphin that was airlifted from Texas to the Florida Keys about one year ago is thriving and interacting with other dolphins at a Keys-based marine mammal facility, officials said Monday.
The orphaned male calf dubbed Ranger was discovered in June 2021. He was stranded near Goose Island State Park and suffering from a respiratory infection and dehydration. Rescued near his dead mother, the young bottlenose dolphin was deemed too young to forage and survive in the wild.
The National Marine Fisheries Service chose the Dolphin Research Center in Grassy Key, Florida, as Ranger’s permanent home after he was temporarily cared for at the Texas State Aquarium in Corpus Christi.
“Dolphins are very social; they live in a family, they depend on that family even to learn how to catch fish,” said Linda Erb, the Dolphin Research Center’s vice president of animal care and training. “Without a mom, without a family, this little guy would have starved — he would not have known how to be a wild dolphin.”
Erb said her team’s primary goal has been to make sure that Ranger, now about 3 years old, learned to socialize with other dolphins in a natural lagoon at the center after his release from a necessary five-week quarantine in a medical pool.
“The Ranger that was living in our med pool is a different dolphin than the Ranger living out here now today,” Erb said. “He is fully adapted into the family and has surrogate moms that help take care of him. He has buddies that he plays with.”