Rescued dolphin dies after failed operation

Photo courtesy of the Keelung City government

TAIPEI (CNA) — A rough-toothed dolphin that was rescued near Taoyuan last week has died after veterinarians tried to extract a plastic bag from its stomach, according to the Keelung City government.

The 2-meter-long dolphin was found swimming in circles off the coast of Dayuan District in Taoyuan on Friday, and later became stranded on the shore, according to the Taiwan Cetacean Society.

As the dolphin was weak and undernourished, it was transported to a rescue center in Keelung to receive care.

During an examination, the dolphin was found to have two marks, one likely the result of a shark attack that had healed and the other a tumor, but it was in a more stable condition than it was found, Keelung official Tsai Fu-ning (蔡馥嚀) said Saturday.

Veterinarians later discovered, however, that the dolphin had swallowed a plastic bag, and the dolphin died when they tried to extract the bag from its stomach, Tsai said on Monday.

An autopsy performed shortly after the dolphin’s death showed that it had lesions in nearly all of its major organs, including its mouth, lungs, liver, stomach, kidneys, heart and spine, Tsai said.

Based on the severity of the dolphin’s illness, it is unlikely that it could have fully healed, even with long-term treatment, she said.

The medical team caring for the dolphin tried its best to save the animal, and it was unfortunate that the operation failed, she said.

Although ranked “least concerned” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, rough-toothed dolphins are rarely seen in Taiwan.

Previously, they have only been spotted near Green Island southeast of Taiwan, and the species usually appears in warm waters beyond the continental shelf, according to the National Parks of Taiwan Biodiversity Database.