Info:Shedd dolphin death blamed on bad fish

Michael Williamson (whe_william@flo.org)
Mon, 19 Mar 1995 16:04:37

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From: Michael Williamson <WHE_WILLIAM@FLO.ORG>
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Shedd dolphin death blamed on bad fish
 
     CHICAGO, March 17 (UPI) -- A Pacific white-sided dolphin that died at
the Shedd Aquarium last month was stricken with a blood-borne bacterial
infection that probably came from fish the dolphin ate, Shedd officials
said Friday.
   The dolphin died on Feb. 24, less than 24 hours after the first
subtle changes in behavior were noted.
   The death sparked protest from some animal-rights groups but Shedd
officials Friday were quick to point out that the infection is naturally
found in healthy fish and kills dolphins in the wild as well.
   The dolphin that died was named Quitz -- which means "little male"
in the dialect of a Pacific Northwest Indian tribe -- and was captured
off the California coast in November 1993. Shedd officials judged his
age to be about five or six years.
   An analysis by the University of Illinois School of Veterinary
Medicine Zoological Pathology Program, the U.S. Department of
Agriculture and Shedd's own laboratory found that Quitz was killed by an
acute septicemic infection. The disease, erysipelas, occurs in fish,
mammals and birds.
   The symptoms of the disease are not visible until the animal is near
death, making it difficult to detect in time to treat.
   "This is especially difficult for our staff because there was
nothing we could do to help the dolphin," said aquarium director Ted
Beattie.
   Erysipelas has been found in stranded whales and dolphins and blood
tests indicate wild populations are regularly exposed to the bacteria,
according to the Shedd.
   Fish fed to the dolphins at the aquarium are inspected at least three
times for damage or physical defects. But the bacteria does not affect
the fish themselves and there are no visible signs of it.
   The Shedd has six remaining dolphins and two Beluga whales, all of
whom appear healthy, said assistant curator of marine mammals Ken
Ramirez.