Roxanne, the 700 lb Risso’s dolphin rescued from a sandbar off Fire Island was finally released back into the ocean from the Shinnecock Commercial Dock in Hampton Bays, Long Island at 8:30 this morning.
Initially found by the US Coasty Guard on June 6th, the 9-foot dolphin has been recuperating at the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research, where she was treated for gastric bleeding and parasites. Since then, she has gained a 100 lbs thanks to a diet of 75 pounds of squid per day, noted Foundation spokesperson Melissa Martin, who added that the total cost for Roxanne’s release comes to $35,000, raised through both public funding as well as private donations.
Martin also noted that Roxanne’s ulcers did not seem to be connected to the cetacean morbillivirus responsible for the mass die-off of dolphins resulting in, more than 488 bottlenose strandings from North Carolina to New York. The same virus was also behind the death of 740 bottlenose dolphins from New York to Florida in 1987-1988, according to a report by Teri Rowles, head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) response to the strandings.
The virus, which is spread through direct contact between the animals, or from inhaling respiratory particles, affects their lungs and brains, resulting in pneumonia. Although deadly to marine animals, this particular virus is not considered harmful to humans. However, NOAA did state that other strains of morbilliviruses could cause measles in humans and primates, while another type is known to cause distemper in canines. As a result, the agency is warning people with any open wounds not to go near beached dolphins in case the animals have secondary infections.