A Once in a Lifetime
by Dr Kevin Cruickshank
Taking time out to recharge the batteries is so important, and sometimes you can be lucky and create some of those once-in-a-lifetime moments. We recently took a short family break to Tangalooma Wild Dolphin Resort on Moreton Island, a short hop across the bay on Brisbanes doorstep. Well I cannot recommend it enough, even for those living interstate it is well worth a holiday trip in its own right.
Tangalooma is famous for their nightly hand feeding of wild dolphins, and it did not disappoint. This nightly ritual began back in the 1980s when dolphins started feeding on baitfish attracted by the lights on their jetty. Today it is a highly organised and regulated activity, run by marine biologists and dolphin researchers. Strict hygiene measures are in place to ensure no diseases are passed from man to dolphin and they limit the amount fed to ensure that the dolphins remain wild and do not become dependant on man feeding them. One by one we entered the water to personally present a fish to the patiently waiting dolphins. They truly are graceful creatures and most majestic up close. Even on the nights youre not allocated to feed, its a wonderful spectacle to watch from the jetty as the dolphins frolic and feed.
But my interest in this event was more than just in the experience of seeing and feeding the dolphins. The ritual has recently been publicised to have had another spin-off, perhaps saving the life of one of these beautiful creatures.
A few weeks ago, one of the pod arrived late for dinner sporting a terrible wound. Nari, a Tangalooma regular had been savagely attacked by a shark. Unprepared for this turn of events there was little that the biologists could do that night, other than to put together a plan for the following evening. But, when Nari failed to turn up at all for the next two nights they became gravely concerned.
The vet from Seaworld on the Gold Coast, and their specialised rescue team, were standing by to capture Nari and administer treatment. Finally when Nari limped in on the fourth night they were able to capture him with the minimum of fuss, partly due to his weakened condition, and partly due to the fact that he was used to close human contact.
Nari was transported to Seaworld and operated on the next day. It was touch and go for the first 24hrs but he pulled through and is expected to make a full recovery and to be released again at Tangalooma. The fact that he is used to being hand fed is making his recovery much more straightforward, and minimising the stress that an otherwise totally wild dolphin would be experiencing. As a vet one has a wide choice of career options. Being a marine vet has to be a dream job. I also always dreamed of being a wildlife vet but that was not to be. But the joy of healing a persons best friend is hard to beat and one can always get your wild experiences on holiday!