Volunteers in St. Petersburg, Florida, are being lauded for a job well done after helping a group of dolphins find their way out of a canal and back toward their home in more open waters.
“We had two pairs of dolphins, mom-calf pairs, that were swimming around in this canal behind me,” Clearwater Marine Aquarium‘s Chuck White said in a video posted to the aquarium’s YouTube channel on Wednesday, gesturing toward the canal near Fossil Park in St. Petersburg.
“We had received calls over the last day or two about dolphins here in this canal. It is very low salinity, so long term, it would not have been a good situation for them,” he added.
White explained that along the canal are “a couple bridges that kind of seemed to become a barrier” for the four dolphins, “to keep them from being able to get back out to Tampa Bay.”
According to CNN, initial reports of the dolphin presence in the canal began on Sunday. And while officials from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission waited to see if the animals would find their way out on their own with the tide, it became clear by Monday that they would need some assistance.
In the CMA’s video, FWC biologist Andy Garrett explained to the gathered group of volunteers that their objective would be “to try to encourage [the dolphins] with a human chain of people slowly moving up the canal as a barrier [to say], ‘Hey, this noisy barrier’s coming your way, and [the other direction is] the way to get out.’ “
“We’re able to keep that chain together,” Garrett told CNN of the Tuesday rescue mission. “The dolphins were interested, they actually came over right away, and kind of investigated.”
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Over a dozen volunteers working with CMA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration comprised the “human chain,” which used vibrations and sounds to help lure the dolphins back toward safer waters. Onlookers watched the rescue from a bridge, taking photos and videos.
CNN reports that the mission took about 45 minutes before the animals were successfully on their way into Riviera Bay, which feeds back out into Tampa Bay.
“They didn’t stop, they didn’t look back, they didn’t even hesitate for a second. Once they were through, they were headed for home,” said National Wildlife Federation representative Jessica Bibza, as shown in the CMA’s video.
“This is a first for me — I’ve never done this type of intervention where we do not set a net,” added White. “But it’s always nice having a successful rescue.”