Harrison County Launches Dolphin Research Center

One-year old Cayenne is one of the hottest additions at Marine Life in Gulfport. It's hard to believe the playful dolphin nearly died earlier this year, when she got stranded in a bayou.

Marine Mammal Trainer Shannon Huyser said "She was rescued. She was in a levee in Louisiana, and we took her in. Now her home is here, and she's doing great".

Right now, Mississippi and its neighboring states don't have a facility dedicated to rescuing and rehabilitating sick and injured dolphins. But that will soon change, when the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies builds a $3 million Center for Marine Education and Research.

The group's president, Moby Solangi, said "I think dolphins being on top of the food chain are a biological indicator. Protecting them and learning from them, we can protect our environment. It helps with our quality of life.  It helps with our economy, and it also helps us protect what we love".

The center will feature classrooms, veterinary care facilities, a museum, and wet and dry laboratories. It's expected to attract scientists and students from universities across Mississippi and all over the world.

USM Professor Stan Kuczaj said "Many, many people love these animals, and so having a facility that's dedicated to education about them, their protection and learning more about them via research is just a wonderful thing".

Researchers say the Center will give people a better appreciation and respect for the mammals.

Solangi said "If you love something, you want to protect it. You want to protect the environment they live in, and that's the hook we have with dolphins".

The Institute for Marine Mammal Studies expects to start clearing the site after Christmas. If the group gets all the permits and licenses it needs, construction could start as early as February.

By: Trang Pham-Bui