CLEARWATER, Fla. — Panama Junior moved into Clearwater Marine Aquarium about two weeks ago after several months of rehabilitation.

In August 2018, the Atlantic bottlenose dolphin was rescued in Tampa Bay. When she was found she was underweight, blind and deaf. She was then taken to a rehab center in Orlando, where she was nursed back to health and gained nearly 70 pounds.

The National Marine Fisheries and Wildlife Service later determined PJ wouldn’t be able to survive in the wild on her own. She was then moved to Clearwater Marine Aquarium for long-term care.

“Anytime we bring in an animal that we bring in for rehab, our goal is to get them back in the wild,” said David Yates, CEO of Clearwater Marine Aquarium. “If they can’t, [thrive in the wild] our job is to care for them long term.”

According to Yates, PJ is classified as a geriatric dolphin. 

“We estimate she’s around 30 years old.” 

He said the average life span for a dolphin, in the wild or in captivity, is about 25 to 35 years. However, they can live up to 50 years.

The plan for PJ is to give her time to get used to her surroundings and later join her new dolphin family, Winter and Hope, both who are rescue dolphins and living at the aquarium.

“We want to make sure we have everything planned out the right way,” Yates explained.

Yates said the dolphin’s at Clearwater Marine Aquarium days are meticulously planned around the clock, which includes meals and enrichment sessions. “We’re not about a big show for them. It’s about caring for the animals. And we let our guests come see how we care for them.”

If you’d like to pay PJ a visit, head on over to Clearwater Marine Aquarium. The aquarium is opened year round from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. 

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