TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – A Tampa-based air ambulance company transported a young, male bottlenose dolphin last week, from Texas to the Dolphin Research Center in the Florida Keys for free.
Ranger, the approximately 2-year-old orphaned calf, was found suffering from a respiratory infection and dehydration when he was rescued from Goose Island State Park in Texas in June.
The dolphin was cared for at the Texas State Aquarium and fully recovered, but doesn’t have the skills necessary to survive in the wild.
The National Marine Fisheries Service determined the young dolphin couldn’t be released and chose the Dolphin Research Center in Grassy Key to be his permanent home.
On Friday, Ranger was loaded on to a Jet ICU air ambulance and flown to the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department hangar at the Marathon Airport.
Jared Wayt, Jet ICU flight paramedic and Director of Emergency Services was on the mission to transport Ranger.
He said the two and a half hour journey took a week of planning and logistics to make sure Ranger could be transported safely.
Wayt said transporting a dolphin was a “little bit different” than flying intensive care patients all around the world.
“Obviously he was quite tall, over 7-feet tall, and his weight had a lot to do with it,” said Wayt. “So all of it just takes in reconfiguring the aircraft to make sure that the dolphin was transferred safely and cared for. So we had veterinarians with us that managed the care of the dolphin while in flight.”
Ranger did great during his flight. Wayt said there were no issues and they were happy to get him to his home. He called it rewarding and one of the coolest thing he’s ever done.
“I’ve been doing this for a very long time. I’ve flown people all around the world for many, many years, but once we heard we had the opportunity to fly a dolphin, both our teams, the Jet-ICU and the Dolphin Research Center, jumped on board and it worked out great,” he said. “It was one of the funnest patients slash animals I’ve ever flown in my whole life.”
Had the owners of Jet ICU not waived the cost, transport would have been around $30,000.