Nicholas having a ball in his new home

Nicholas, an infant bottlenose dolphin who along with his mother were found stranded in Tampa Bay just before Christmas 2002 has now recuperated sufficiently to join other dolphins as a permanent resident of Clearwater Marine Aquarium.


Suffering 3rd degree sunburn the pair was moved by rescuers to the Aquarium on Christmas Eve. The adult, Noelle, died of her injuries a few days later and it appeared likely Nicholas too would succumb to sunburn and infection.

Volunteers and staff kept an around the clock vigil with Nicholas who at first began to lose weight without his mother, like other mammals dolphins nourish their young with milk. Aquarium officials concocted a substitute milk and the baby was able to fight off infection and started to gain weight.

At first it took five people to hold the youngster who, when found, weighed 120 pounds while doctors drew blood from his tail to monitor his white cell count and cleaned the large wound near his head.

Sunday, after 18 months of healing, Nicholas along with his new pool-mate Panama moved into their new environment at the aquarium's main dolphin pool . There had been speculation at one time that Nicholas might be returned to the open sea, a stated goal of the CMA's rescue and rehabilitation policy. Considering his long rehabilitation at such an early age permanent residency at the aquarium is the best solution; a truly happy ending for the young dolphin as well as area children who have adopted Nicholas as their own.

You can learn more about the CMA and Nicholas at their website.

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Finding Nemo

Swimming in the Gulf of Mexico off one of Florida's famous beaches is sport for some and for others relaxation but for a small yellow kitten, not necessarily planned, but then again not misfortune either.


During a recent outing an alert group of boaters on a scalloping trip 3 miles out of Homosassa Bay in the Gulf of Mexico spotted something. At first, according to crew member Maggie Rogers, the director of finances at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, there appeared to be a piece of sea kelp in the water or perhaps a turtle. As the 17-foot scout Current Drift approached, crew member Bob Kline, Maggie's husband shouted "Dog in the water!” Soon it became clear that "kitten" was more the correct alarm. Bob Burkenstock navigated the boat around to double back and in short order a yellow 9" kitten was plucked from the water.

With their new mate safe aboard, dry and huddled alongside Maggie for protection the fishing trip proceeded as scheduled. A few hours later back on shore the 10-week-old kitten was given a check over by Rogers' vet Dr. Kevin Rose of St. Pete Beach Veterinary Clinic and, accept for a case of worms, given a clean bill of health.

Maggie's sister-n-law adopted the youngster and named him Nemo, of course. Nemo plans to spend his next eight lives one paw firmly planted ashore.
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Great White, 747 of the Sea

American Zoo and Aquarium Association members are at it again, now it is announced that the "Holy Grail" of their community is the capture, captivity and display of Carcharodon carcharias, the "Great White" shark.

For several years Carcharodon has reigned supreme as the terrible man-eater portrayed by Peter Benchely's novel "Jaws" made into a 1975 movie by the same name. Since then zoologists and their employer zoos and aquariums have been in a feeding frenzy of their own aimed at fueling their institutions coffers with tourist dollars: who would be first to claim the "Great White Prize."

Monterey Bay Aquarium in California seems likely to take the prize. Announcing an all out effort to capture a juvenile and maintain it in a 5 million gallon open-ocean-tuna-pen, in other words a cube approximately 64 yard square, smaller than a football field. These are the type of nets ocean farmers use to commercially raise mullet and grouper for harvest.

A Great White at 1 year can weigh 80 pounds, at adulthood they have been known to achieve a length of 19 feet and weigh 5000 pounds. By all estimates great whites are skidish and private creatures who avoid human beings. Their migration habits and longevity have not been determined precisely and yet it has been speculated that, like their cousins, they roam great distances perhaps circumnavigating the globe and can dive to enormous depths. Partly warm blooded, whites are intelligent and may evidence a propensity for gathering or cooperative behavior.

Since 1955 "researchers" including Sea World of San Diego have hunted and killed 30 Great Whites in a fruitless attempt to capture and exhibit a live great white attraction for profit, the record survival to date is 16 days.

Most legitimate zoologists agree that research needs to proceed in a proper scientific method; monitoring this species until such time as a substantial body of research has been compiled which will provide a basis for understanding this unique and largely misunderstood creature.

Mark Berman, Associate Director of the International Marine Mammal Project regards, "Keeping animals in captivity is nothing but a circus act," apparently "zoo-aquarists" at Monterey Bay Aquarium and the AZA don't necessarily agree, especially where ticket sales are concerned.
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A Flamboyance of Flamingos

Hurricane season arrived this week in the Atlantic and everyone living in the Caribbean Islands, Cuba, Florida, Central America and the gulf coasts of Mexico, Texas and Louisiana are once again peering nervously at weather predictions, calculating statistical charts and pondering the efficacy of existing evacuation plans..

Each year between July 1st and September 30th millions of people and animals stand squarely in the bullseye of a target range that lies north of the equator between latitude 10 and 30 degrees north and which stretches west from Africa to the Americas. Storms driven by scorching summer heat boil off the African coast and, powered by ocean wind and current head west with alarming regularity, some become killers.

The Miami Metropolitan Zoo annually finds itself on the front pages of newspapers during hurricane season with the much publicized photo of 20 or so flamingos milling about in the public lavatory where they were herded for safe keeping during Miami's 1999 encounter with Hurricane Floyd.

Since that remarkable photo zoos have increasingly been under pressure to provide disaster contingency planning for their captive charges. Caged, far from home with little resource other than an instinct for survival zoo "exhibits" are especially vulnerable to natural disaster.

Today the news is that, while staffers at Miami's zoo will remain on site during a hurricane, no actual plan to assure the animal's security has been developed.

Traditionally zoos provide concrete shelters called "night houses" for he animals. Little more than concrete bunkers these rooms provide a place out of the public areas where an animal can sleep if unnaturally and there they may be secure from harm. There are however not enough night houses for all the animals.

A check at AZA, The American Zoo and Aquarium Association, home page reveals no mention of consideration regarding the safety of caged animals during natural disasters. This is even more remarkable given their much ballyhood effort to assist resident zoo denizens at the infamous Kabul Zoo which was left decimated and rotting from neglect after the Afghanistan War.

Animals left to their own device have considerable aptitude to overcome even the most devastating natural disaster, not so with captive zoo specimens. Trapped and helpless they often fall victim to the simple fact that today's zoo standards for animal care are far short of anything like real security.

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