As Cape Cod reports the most dolphin strandings in the world, an animal rescue group has opened a first-of-its-kind rehab facility to help save stranded dolphins and porpoises.
The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), a wildlife rescue and conservation organization, now has a new Dolphin Rescue Center in Orleans — a short-term rehabilitation option to give these mammals another chance at life.
“With the new facility, we aim to improve the survivability of stranded dolphins and porpoises,” said Brian Sharp, director of IFAW’s Marine Mammal Rescue and Research team.
“Cape Cod sees more instances of live mass strandings of dolphins than anywhere else in the world,” Sharp added. “Currently there are no such facilities for dolphins north of Florida, leaving IFAW staff to treat stranded animals solely in the field.”
For 25 years, IFAW’s Cape Cod-based team has been working to rescue, treat, and release marine mammals back into the ocean. But sometimes, treating dolphins only in the field isn’t enough to save them.
“To have a chance at survival, these animals require additional diagnostics, treatments and sometimes simply additional recovery time that can only be provided at a dedicated facility,” Sharp said.
For the new Dolphin Rescue Center, IFAW outfitted a former retail space with a room containing two large pools and accompanying filtration systems for the stranded dolphins. The pools are each between 15-16 feet in diameter, and hold up to 4,500 gallons of water.
Stranded animals will be accommodated for no more than four days in the facility, and IFAW initially expects to accommodate about 12 patients a year. The facility will be staffed 24 hours a day when treating patients.
“The Dolphin Rescue Center isn’t just a facility; it’s a hub of compassion and expertise,” Sharp said. “Our staff, including marine biologists, veterinarians, and animal care specialists, will work around the clock to provide the highest level of care to our marine friends.”
While the facility will not be open to the public, IFAW has created a public outreach center in the front room of the facility with educational materials and a closed-circuit television, which will allow people to view activity in the facility.
IFAW has been federally permitted under the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to respond to stranded marine animals on the Cape for 25 years. In the last five years, IFAW staff members have responded to more than 400 live stranded dolphins, whales and porpoises.