GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - When researchers found a deaf dolphin on a mudflat along the Louisiana coast back in March, it was severely sun burned and clearly far from home. Then, it was soon discovered, the 2-year-old dolphin was also deaf.
"This animal is disabled," Institute of Marine Mammal Studies Director Moby Solangi said. "It is deaf and it was in very serious condition and now the government has deemed it non-releasable. So it cannot go back in the wild and can't survive. So IMMS is going to take care of it for the rest of its life."
Initially, the animal was rescued by researchers with the Audubon Nature Institute in New Orleans. He was nursed back to health and then transferred to the Institute of Marine Mammal Studies in Gulfport.
"Audubon did a great job in rescuing it. Now we're going to continue that rehabilitation for this animal. We're absolutely delighted. This will become an important tool for educating the general public about the need to protect and conserve our environment."
Emma Jarvis works with the institute as a dolphin trainer. She knows that taking this dolphin on will present a bit of a challenge, but she's confident it will work out.
"We don't know the extent to which he's deaf yet, so we're hoping he can still hear our whistle a little bit to the point that it will be useful. But there's definitely ways of doing silent bridges, which is telling them they did it correctly without them actually hearing a tone. Hopefully we'll be able to incorporate that if we need to, but there's definitely ways to get around every challenge," Jarvis said.
If all goes as planned, the institute is hoping to get the dolphin trained and performing with the rest of the dolphins. It will take some time, but in either case the important part is that now he has a home.
"He would never be able to survive in the wild, but we have the ability to train the animal. He interact with people and he will be able to perform. I think it will be a great opportunity for the young kids and the public to come and see him," Solangi said.
There's just one more little matter the folks at IMMS need your help with: What should we call him? They've narrowed their choices down to "Apollo" and "Gumbo." Vote in our online poll, and we'll let you know when the new name becomes official.