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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, July 8, 2002

Spinner dolphin stranded on Magic Island dies in rescue

By Karen Blakeman
Advertiser Staff Writer

A young female spinner dolphin ran aground on the rocks off Magic Island yesterday morning, then died while a team of marine specialists tried to take her by truck to a care facility at the Marine base in Kane'ohe.

"She seemed OK when they left, but 10 or 15 minutes down the highway, she died," said Louis Herman, director of Kewalo Basin Marine Mammal Laboratory. "This species is very delicate and prone to that sort of stress reaction. They go into shock.

"But you know," he said, "you're damned if you do and damned if you don't. You've just got to try."

Other than a few abrasions from the rocks, the dolphin had no apparent injuries. She may have been ill and seeking shallow water to stay afloat and away from sharks, Herman said, or she may have lost her way while swimming with other dolphins.

A necropsy, or animal autopsy, will be conducted.

The beached animal was discovered by a surfer who saw dolphins swimming near Magic Island, then saw one on the rocks.

He carried her across to the inner lagoon, where he and three other people held her in the water. The National Marine Fisheries Service, state Department of Land and Natural Resources and Herman were notified.

A team of biologists and veterinarians mobilized by the Fisheries Service gathered at Magic Island. Herman said the animal looked calm and secure in people's arms when he arrived. She was about 5 feet 6 inches long and weighed about 130 pounds. He estimated her age at about three years.

Spinner dolphins have a lifespan of about 20 years, a little less than half that of the larger, more robust, thicker-beaked bottlenose dolphins, Herman said. They are extremely sociable animals who rest in shallow waters off O'ahu in the mornings, then swim to deeper water to feed at night.

They were named for the way they leap out of the water after rest periods, then spin in the air before continuing their trek to the open sea.

Stranded marine animals can be reported to the Fisheries Service hotline, (888) 256-9840.