Dolphin Hospital in Cape Cod Will Address Stranding Issues for Marine Life

Anna Garrison - Author

Aug. 25 2023, Published 10:40 a.m. ET

Close up of a common dolphin in transport.
Source: Andrea Spence / ©IFAW, Activities conducted under a federal stranding agreement between IFAW and NMFS under the MMPA.

Close-up of a common dolphin being transported by cart to the release beach after being cleared by a health assessment.

Marine life ecosystems are precious to our planet, and with climate change causing rising temperatures in the oceans, causing coral bleaching, and threatening biodiversity, now more than ever, it's imperative to protect ocean creatures. Thankfully, a first-of-its-kind dolphin and porpoise short-term rehabilitation center on Cape Cod aims to do exactly that.

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As irregular ocean patterns cause low tides and bring more marine creatures into shore, the International Fund for Animal Welfare has created a solution. Here's what you need to know about the Dolphin Rescue Center in downtown Orleans, Mass.

A veterinarian monitors a stranded common dolphin before their release.
Source: Andrea Spence / ©IFAW, Activities conducted under a federal stranding agreement between IFAW and NMFS under the MMPA.

IFAW veterinarian Dr. Sarah Sharp monitors a stranded common dolphin on a blue padded transport tent prior to its release.

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A first-of-its-kind dolphin hospital on Cape Cod will serve as a short-term rehabilitation center.

According to The Cape Cod Times, the 4,200-square-foot Dolphin Rescue Center was created by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), a nonprofit conservation and wildlife rescue organization. The Dolphin Rescue Center will open at 115 Route 6A in a renovated storefront that has been made over to provide a critical space for the short-term rehabilitation of dolphins and porpoises who strand nearby.

IFAW's Brian Sharp, the director of the Marine Mammal Rescue & Research team, told CBS News that the rescue center's location is critical because Cape Cod sees more mass strandings of dolphins than anywhere else in the world. "With the new facility, we aim to improve the survivability of stranded dolphins and porpoises," Sharp said.

The facility anticipates treating at least 12 stranded dolphins yearly, who should be released back into the wild after four days of treatment.

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Photograph of rehabilitation pools in progress of being built at the Dolphin Rescue Center.
Source: Andrea Spence / ©IFAW

IFAW's Dolphin Rescue Center.

The space has two treatment pools 15 feet in diameter filled with 4,500 gallons of water. Four full-time staff members will also staff an office space and a veterinary lab. Animals will be treated one at a time, but IFAW hopes they will be able to treat multiple animals at once in the future.

NBC Boston said that the public will not have access to areas where animals are being treated. Still, the location has an education center where visitors can watch animals on a monitor.

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Previously, when dolphins or porpoises would strand in Cape Cod, the marine mammal team would be forced to quickly assess their needs, treat the animals where they are, and release them immediately. Sharp explained to NBC Boston that this brief treatment is often not enough time to allow the creature to truly heal.

"With this ICU for dolphins, we'll be able to get them treatment that's needed, then be able to release them quickly," Sharp said.

In a press release on Aug. 24, 2023, the IFAW said their Marine Mammal Rescue & Research has responded to more than 400 live stranded porpoises, whales, and dolphins in the Cape Cod area.

The release also includes that the Cape Cod project is partially funded by the Dutch Postcode Lottery, which provides rent for the facility, funding for the pool construction, food and medicine for the animals, and staff salaries and equipment.

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