Deaf Dolphin Gives Birth In Florida

In this photo released by the Florida Keys News Bureau, a dolphin calf, right, surfaces for air Monday, June 11, 2007, as it swims next to her mother, named Castaway, about an hour after being born Monday in at the Marine Mammal Conservancy in Key Largo, Fla. Castaway stranded late last year and experts determined the mammal is deaf. Officials at MMC are hoping the calf will develop communications' skills by electronically feeding live dolphin sounds from a nearby Florida Keys dolphin facility after the mother and calf have bonded. AP Photo

A stranded, deaf dolphin delivered her calf at a marine mammal rehabilitation center, and officials hope a dolphin "chat line" they have installed will teach the baby dolphin to vocalize normally.

The Atlantic bottlenose dolphin, named Castaway, has been vocalizing to her unnamed calf, but officials at the Marine Mammal Conservancy say that is not enough for it to learn proper dolphin-speak.

"Castaway's vocalizations are not normal," conservancy president Robert Lingenfelser said. "She speaks in a monotone, similar to the way that people who cannot hear speak."

So officials have electronically linked Castaway's habitat with a lagoon at Dolphins Plus, a research and interactive educational facility a few miles away. Underwater speakers and microphones have been installed at both locations so the calf can communicate with hearing dolphins.

The 42-inch, 30-pound calf is swimming well and breathing normally, Lingenfelser said. Officials do not plan to release it because the first few months of a dolphin's development are a critical time for it to learn self-preservation.

Castaway became stranded in November but was initially deemed healthy enough for release after convalescing at a marine lab in Sarasota. Instead of swimming offshore, she returned to the beach three times before she was taken to the Florida Keys.

  • Elizabeth Curlee

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