When Tom and Misha were rescued in September 2010 there was considerable concern about their health. Several years in a confined environment with an inadequate diet and lack of exercise and stimulation had taken its toll. They were thin, lethargic and lacked muscle tone.
Working with our project partners S.A.D, our first priority was to get Tom and Misha eating better and we slowly managed to increase their food intake from a suspected 2kg a day to an average of 8kg now. Once the dolphins were moved to their larger sea pen, we began a more intensive ‘conditioning’ programme. In the safe hands of experts Stephen McCulloch and Jeff Foster, Tom and Misha’s confidence was gained and we are now at a stage where our veterinary consultant John Knight was able to draw bloods from them and take blow hole swabs while Tom and Misha simply relaxed in the water. Gaining a full understanding of their health is an essential part of the rehabilitation and release protocol we are applying to this project.
Already Tom and Misha have acquired better condition, but there is still a way to go. It is vital we give them the best chance possible when they are released, and this will involve getting them as physically fit as possible. They were once fast and agile predators in the sea; captivity then made them listless and it destroyed most of their fitness. Now we must treat them like two young novices in training for the Olympics.
It is easy to see how much they have improved in their six months of rehabilitation. But we still have to get them a lot fitter. This involves regular training sessions which include speed swims, jumps, ball training and other activities that increase their heart rate. These exercise sessions are carried out under the watchful eyes of their trusted ‘trainers’; the people who are ultimately responsible for gaining Tom and Misha’s trust so that veterinary samples can be taken without stress and whose instructions Tom and Misha will respond to in order to make them work harder and get fitter ready for a life in the ocean. Ultimately it will be Jeff and the S.A.D. team who work with Tom and Misha on a daily basis who will give them their final ‘command’ to leave the sea pen and head off into the ocean.
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