First dolphin born in captivity in PH

Photo by Randy Datu

Photo by Randy Datu

By Randy V. Datu/ – The country’s first live birth of a bottle-nosed dolphin in captivity happened in Subic last July 6.

A baby dolphin was born 7 pm on July 6, at the Ocean Adventure marine park in Subic Bay, said Carlo Magno, the marine park’s Director for Animal Care Department.

Said Magno: “The calf is less than 1 meter long and weighs approximately 12 kilos. Mother and calf are doing just fine. The first 30 days are critical for baby dolphins. Ocean Adventure expert staff are working around the clock to assure optimal care for mother and baby. Trained volunteers are recording swimming patterns, respiration rates, and recording nursing bouts by the baby.”

He said that the first-time mother, named Vi, is 11 years old. She was discovered to be pregnant after a routine ultrasound last February revealed the pregnancy, he explained.

A special birthing pen and large nursing lagoon were built. Cameras and an observation deck were installed to enhance monitoring. Vi trained with a special dolphin “puppet” to encourage nursing behavior, he said.

Throughout the 12-month pregnancy, Vi continued to participate in Ocean Adventure training sessions and programs. She spent the nights in the birthing facilities with her best friend dolphin, Nala.

For the last 3 months, like her pregnant human counterparts, she was encouraged to continue light exercise under the watch eyes of observers, Magno said.

In labor

World renowned marine mammal veterinarian, Dr. Robert Braun arrived in the Philippines 10 days before the event to lead final preparations for the birth and last July 3, Vi showed signs of labor “triggering a full alert.”

Intermittent contractions were observed over the next 2 days, but not hard labor. By late evening July 5, Dr. Braun, in consultation with other international marine mammal experts, decided to intervene.

“On [July 6], Ocean Adventure trainers, relying solely on their bond with Vi, gained her voluntarily cooperation with a critical ultrasound exam which confirmed that the baby was still alive,” Magno said.

That information allowed administration of the human drug, Oxytocin, to induce labor. At 5:30 pm that day Vi went into true labor. Within 30 minutes a tiny tail emerged; after 90 minutes Vi delivered a healthy baby calf.

Magno said that ‘from the moment of birth Vi has been a great mom. She’s done everything right! She pushed the baby to the surface for his first breath, helped him avoid the walls, and increased his lung capacity by taking him for progressively longer and deeper swims underwater.”

Vulnerable baby

He also said that within 5 hours the baby was nursing, an impressive short timeframe for most newborn dolphins.

Magno explained: “Baby dolphins are very vulnerable. Every scratch on their delicate skin is a potentially lethal source of infection until their immune system develops several days after birth. They must swim continually to stay afloat with a soft tail that takes hours to become rigid enough for efficient swimming. He will be at risk for the first 30 days.”

“However, with a wonderful mother like Vi, we have high hopes that this little guy will survive., We’ll continue doing everything humanly possible to insure a successful outcome,” he said.

Although this was the first dolphin birth in human care, Magno noted that Ocean Adventure has a long history of successful sea lion births – 8 pups in all.

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