New IFAW Dolphin Rescue & Rehab Facility Saves Stranded Marine Mammals On Cape Cod

Photos by: IFAW 

A first-of-its-kind rehabilitation facility for dolphins and porpoises fills a critical unmet need as it opens on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, this month.

Wildlife rescue and conservation organization IFAW has become internationally recognized for its dolphin rescue and research expertise for 25 years. IFAW’s research and innovation has led to groundbreaking response techniques and increased survival rates for marine mammals, both locally and in similar mass stranding hotspots around the world.

“With the new facility, we aim to improve the survivability of stranded dolphins and porpoises,” said Brian Sharp, Director of IFAW’s Marine Mammal Rescue & Research team. “Cape Cod sees more instances of live mass strandings of dolphins than anywhere else in the world. Currently, there are no such facilities for dolphins north of Florida, leaving IFAW staff to treat stranded animals solely in the field.”

“However, some dolphins cannot receive the care they need to survive under the current paradigm,” Sharp added. “To have a chance at survival, these animals require additional diagnostics, treatments, and sometimes simply additional recovery time that can only be provided at a dedicated facility.”

IFAW has outfitted a former retail space with a room containing two large pools and accompanying filtration systems to accommodate stranded dolphins. The pools are each between 15-16 feet in diameter and hold up to 4,500 gallons of water. The facility will also include office space and a veterinary laboratory.

Stranded animals will be accommodated for no more than four days at the facility, and IFAW initially expects to accommodate about 12 patients per year. The facility will be staffed 24 hours a day when treating patients.

While the facility will not be open to the public, Sharp said IFAW has created a public outreach center in the front room of the facility with educational materials and a closed-circuit television that will allow people to view activity in the facility.

The project is financed in part by a contribution from the Dutch Postcode Lottery, which includes rent for the facility, construction of the rehabilitation pools and water filtration system, food and medicine for the animals, and additional staff salary and equipment (gloves, booties, and dry suits).

IFAW has been federally permitted under the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to respond to stranded marine mammals on Cape Cod for 25 years. In the last five years, IFAW has responded to more than 400 live stranded dolphins, whales, and porpoises.

Cape Cod’s first Dolphin Rescue Center opens this month and will be ready to provide rapid response and intensive care for stranded dolphins and porpoises in this global stranding hotspot.

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