In the video above, we follow an important milestone in the rehabilitation, and hopefully, eventual release of a young dolphin: his hearing test.
On Oct. 26, 2015, the juvenile male was found stranded on Grand Isle Beach in Louisiana. The Audubon Nature Institute, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration—which oversees dolphin health—collaborated to rescue and transport the dolphin by van to the Audubon Aquatic Center (AAC) in New Orleans.
Staff at the AAC keep their distance so the dolphin doesn’t become attached to or dependent on people.
The AAC has found that many animals that find themselves stranded like this dolphin are actually deaf. As echolocation is how many marine creatures keep track of their pods, find food, and navigate, deafness could potentially explain one of nature’s most heartbreaking mysteries. Therefore, before any consideration can be given releasing to this dolphin—who’s been nursed back to seaworthy health, otherwise—the staff at the AAC has to first make sure their young patient can hear.
The auditory evoked potential test for dolphins was developed by Dr. Dorian Houser, who traveled from California to New Orleans to administer it. Good news in this case: The dolphin aced the exam—all signs indicate that his hearing is normal. Given that, the AAC is now recommending that NOAA has a worthy candidate for release back into the sea.