A Whale of A Recovery

An injured whale, nicknamed "Kokomo," was discovered by Coast Guard officers near the tidal flats at Snake Creek, off the Florida Keys, shortly before 10 a.m. last Wednesday.

The mammal, which showed signs of pneumonia and anemia, was pulled to the Coast Guard boat ramp where rescuers began nursing it while looking for a safe place where it can recover.

The next day, six rescuers hoisted Kokomo with a crane and into a rented Ryder truck for a trip to The Islander hotel which had agreed to let the Keys-based Marine Mammal Conservancy use its heated saltwater pool for Kokomo's recovery.

"We actually had no other options," says Rick Trout, a director of the conservancy and one of the organizers of the rescue, on The Early Show.

National Marine Fisheries Service officials, who regulate and set guidelines for rescues of stranded marine mammals, had wanted to use a smaller, plastic portable pool at Dolphins Plus aquarium or to heat a canal near the Key Largo facility. But Trout feared the portable pool would be too small and it would take days to heat the canal.

"With the incredible severe cold front that came through that, I think, broke records, we were looking at an animal who was compromised health wise, and he was going to be cold in the natural waters," Trout explains. The only available heated pool was at The Islander and no fewer than three veterinarians suggested the whale recover there.

The whale will probably have to be treated for several weeks before it can be released back to the ocean, Trout says. Rescuers are giving the whale round-the-clock medical treatment.

Medical examinations showed Kokomo was suffering from anemia, severe dehydration and a suspicious wound, possibly from a harpoon or gaff, just behind its blowhole.

"The sicknesses, the injuries that can happen to these animals that bring them to the beach are what we're still trying to discover," Trout says. "We're working with a great doctor with the marine laboratory, and we've done at least three blood tests and what we're finding is we've made some real improvements. He's no longer dehydrated."

They had been giving the animal Pedialyte to balance his electrolytes, distilled water and Maalox to settle its stomach and hydrate it and antibiotics to fight pneumonia and infection.

"And we actually did an EKG yesterday to find out if he has what traditionally these animals come in with - a cardiomiopathy, a heart disease that is irreversible. We still don't know that he has that. We're working on finding out those things," Trout explains.

Federal officials and members of the conservancy, a Key Largo-based organization that coordinates whale and dolphin rescues in the Florida Keys, will decide later what to do with Kokomo.