03 December 2018

Searching for #104

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October is normally a very quiet month for DCP on Bimini. Research summary reports are drafted. Permit applications are prepped. Data are attempted to stay organized…This October brought a spike in activity. As you likely saw on social media and in our latest issue of The Dolphin Gazette, DCP ID#104 (also WDP’s ID “Lamda”), was found stranded in late August, far from Bimini. The report came into BMMRO and they called upon the rescue team from Atlantis. They assessed his condition and got him back in the water and off he went. But not for long. He soon re-stranded; so the rescue team flew him to their rehab facility where was carefully monitored, medicated, fed and tested. The outlook was grim.

But #104, nicknamed “M&M” (Modern Miracle), rebounded! He put on weight. His tests came back normal. He got feisty! Soon, conference calls were happening, planning his release. Where would we do it? How would we do it? Would he get a tag? Who would handle permits with Bahamas Department of Marine Resources? All the ducks lined up and he was flown – by sea plane no less – to Bimini, then transferred to a boat which took him close to the area where we’d previously observed him. He zipped and zoomed and though he didn’t swim anywhere near where we thought he’d go, he was on the move and sticking to the Great Bahama Bank.

Everyone involved was thrilled when #104 started making his way back to Bimini. We watched the daily satellite tracking data from Mote Marine Lab and hoped he’d not only return to Bimini, but stick around once he did. Well, he’s finally back. And it was time to try to lay eyes on him.

So, on Saturday and Sunday, Al and I headed in search of #104. We looked in the areas where his tag had reported him in the few hours prior. On Saturday – with rough seas and overcast skies – we had no luck. A few bottlenose dolphins cruised past, but no sign of spotteds. On Sunday – with rougher seas but sunny skies – we saw more bottlenose. And 14 – 16 different Atlantic spotted dolphins. But, none of them was #104. I didn’t focus on individual IDs (which would have been difficult in the waves), but rather aimed to get a good view (& ideally, photo) of the base of every dorsal fin. No tags.

I came back to the dock pretty disappointed that I wasn’t able to confirm #104’s well-being. How did his body look? How was his behavior? Was he alone or with a group? If a group, was it the same individuals he’d been seen associating with over the summer? But, we know he’s out there. And we know other spotteds are too. So, I’ll go back to hoping he’s doing well and waiting for the next chance to search for him.

A huge thank you to Dr. Randy Wells for providing location data during each search and to Dr. Diane Claridge for helping me stay in touch and get those data while at sea. And to Al for donating his time for the search!

Stay tuned for more updates – I hope! – on this guy!

Until next time,

Kel

Kelly Melillo Sweeting

Kel is DCP's Bimini Research Manager, and all around awesome scientist.

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