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Nicholas the Dolphin celebrates 17th rescue anniversary on Christmas Eve

He was saved by rescuers as a calf.
Credit: Clearwater Marine Aquarium

CLEARWATER, Fla. — As families gather together for Christmas Eve, a special dolphin is celebrating the holiday season with his adopted family.

Clearwater Marine Aquarium's male dolphin, Nicholas, is celebrating the 17th anniversary of his rescue. 

The Atlantic Bottlenose dolphin weighed 120 pounds when he was found stranded as a calf in 2002 near Gibsonton, Florida. Nicholas was discovered alongside his mother on Christmas Eve of that year.

Because of the time they were found, rescuers named his mom "Noelle" and based Nicholas' name on St. Nicholas. 

While they were stranded in direct sunlight, both dolphins suffered second and third-degree burns. They were taken to Clearwater Marine Aquarium for treatment. Sadly, Noelle passed away shortly after their rescue, leaving Nicholas an orphan at only about six months old.

Since Nicholas lacked basic survival skills at that age, Clearwater Marine Aquarium became his forever home. He still has scars on his back from the burns he suffered years ago. But, he doesn't let his injuries define him.

"Today, Nicholas serves as an ambassador of perseverance for children and military personnel with burn injuries, vitiligo, and a variety of skin differences," Clearwater Marine Aquarium wrote in a statement. "...Many form a bond with Nicholas and come to visit Clearwater Marine Aquarium during their treatment to be reminded that they too can live a full life with a skin difference."

Click here to watch Nicholas' live web camera.

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