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Glancer Magazine

RESCUED | Chicago Zoological Society Staff Lead Efforts to Help Entangled Wild Dolphin Calf

Brookfield Zoo, Glancer Magazine, Dolphin Rescue


A dolphin calf once entangled in fishing line and gear is swimming freely again with its mother after being rescued yesterday by a team of biologists, a commercial fisherman, veterinarians, and law enforcement personnel.

The young male dolphin was seen over the past few weeks in Lemon Bay, near Englewood, Florida, with fishing line and gear wrapped around its body and tail as well as through its mouth.

Staff from the Chicago Zoological Society’s (CZS) Sarasota Dolphin Research Program based in Florida led a team experienced in stranding response along Florida’s west coast in catching both mom and her calf, removing the embedded gear, conducting a brief health assessment, and successfully releasing them back into the wild.

In order to keep mom and her calf calm, biologists held both close together while the team disentangled the animal from fishing line embedded in his tail and mouth. The pair exchanged whistles with each other as they were held.

The entanglement was significant, with fishing line cutting through each side of the calf’s tail. The line also was embedded in tissue in the calf’s mouth, forming a “bridle." The team was able to cut the line and pull it out, give the calf an antibiotic shot, take measurements, and collect a blood sample. After about an hour of treatment the calf was free of gear and both animals swam away looking strong. In the coming weeks, CZS biologists will monitor the calf's progress.

In addition to Chicago Zoological Society staff, the rescue, which was conducted under a NOAA permit, included collaborating partners from Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Mote Marine Laboratory, the University of Florida’s College of Veterinary Medicine, Clearwater Marine Aquarium, and Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office.

“The success of this rescue was largely due to the fact that our amazing team of collaborators has worked together on many other rescues and dolphin health assessment projects over the years along the west coast of Florida,” said Randy Wells, director of the Chicago Zoological Society’s Sarasota Dolphin Research Program. “Such experience and expertise is crucial for safely and effectively intervening with a compromised young dolphin.

With many families from the Chicago area heading to Florida for the upcoming spring break, it is important to remember to admire wildlife from a distance as well as dispose of trash and recreational gear in a proper manner. Those who are fishing and dolphins come by, should reel in their lines and enjoy the view until the dolphins are gone from the area.

The best way to help marine life in trouble is to call trained responders, report your location and wait near the animal. Please call 1-877-WHALE HELP to report injured or dead marine life or use NOAA's Dolphin and Whale 911 phone app.

About the Chicago Zoological Society

The mission of the Chicago Zoological Society is to inspire conservation leadership by connecting people with wildlife and nature. The Chicago Zoological Society is a private nonprofit organization that operates Brookfield Zoo on land owned by the Forest Preserves of Cook County. The Society is known throughout the world for its international role in animal population management and wildlife conservation. Its Center for the Science of Animal Care and Welfare is at the forefront of animal care that strives to discover and implement innovative approaches to zoo animal management. Brookfield Zoo is the first zoo in the world to be awarded the Humane Certified™ certification mark for the care and welfare of its animals, meeting American Humane Association’s rigorous certification standards. Open every day of the year, the zoo is located at 8400 31st Street in Brookfield, Illinois, between the Stevenson (I-55) and Eisenhower (I-290) expressways and is also accessible via the Tri-State Tollway (I-294), Metra commuter line, CTA and PACE bus service. For further information, visit

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