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Dolphin calf rescued in Clearwater won't be released back into the wild, SeaWorld says

"I am happy to say he is in a really good, healthy state," its VP said. However, because of his age and size when he was rescued, he won't be released into the wild.

ORLANDO, Fla. — The baby dolphin found stuck in a crab trap in Clearwater Beach over the summer seems to be making great progress in his recovery, SeaWorld Orlando shared Monday.

“I am happy to say he is in a really good, healthy state,” says Jon Peterson, VP of Zoological Operations at SeaWorld Orlando.

Peterson says it’s been a long road to get here for the little guy that's suffered pneumonia, infections and damage to his fins. Peterson says the dolphin was likely around 2 months old when he was found at Pier 60 in almost a catatonic state. Crews searched the area for the dolphin’s mother and weren’t able to find her, so NOAA contacted SeaWorld for rehabilitation help. 

Peterson says the dolphin “was in a critical state,” but in Orlando, a medical team was able to nurse him back to health.

“He started waking up, he started trying to swim, he started vocalizing, he started moving. He went from absolutely not swimming to swimming, to actually waking up,” and taking a bottle from his team of caregivers, Peterson added.

NOAA has deemed the dolphin non-releasable because of his age and size. He’s had no interaction with other dolphins and has no hunting skills, so he will remain in SeaWorld’s custody. Peterson says the next step will be socialization. 

“The next big milestone for him is we are actually setting up our dolphin nursery pool with a mom and a baby that are in there right now and a very experienced mom who doesn’t have a baby right now and we’re going to add him, so he can learn the social skills, he can learn how to communicate with other dolphins.” 

The hope is to make the move in the next 30 days when he’s ready. Park visitors in Orlando will also be able to greet him in the nursery as his care continues. 

“Once he’s out there, every one of his fans can see him. He will be out in the park. He will be part of our group and social group out there in our dolphin nursery, but he’ll still be getting his bottles every two hours, around the clock.” Peterson explains, “it’s sort of like leaving the hospital and going to a rehab facility and then leaving the rehab facility to go home to learn how to do it all on your own.”

Of course, the little guy needs a name! SeaWorld is asking for some help in that department. It released four options on its SeaWorld Rescue platforms and is asking fans to weigh in.

SeaWorld is also asking people to make a concerted effort to help protect these marine animals. 

Peterson says, “This is very preventable, just by removing the trash. Take it home, recycle it, throw it out.”

RELATED: Baby dolphin in critical condition after being found trapped in remnants of crab trap

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