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Aquarium Reviews Death of Dolphin

August 9, 2004

BALTIMORE (AP) _ The chief scientist at the National Aquarium in Baltimore has launched a review of the dolphin breeding program after the death of a 4-month-old dolphin.

``It is going to be restructured. There’s no doubt about that,″ said Dr. Joseph R. Geraci, the aquarium’s senior director of biological programs and an international authority on marine mammals.

He plans to segregate nursing pairs from male animals and use artificial insemination.

The death was the second in the aquarium’s dolphin pool this year. In April, a 10-day-old male died of bacterial meningitis.

Geraci said his review was precipitated by the latest death last month of a female named Bridgit, who was roughed up by two older males.

In addition to the bullying the animal suffered, initial necropsy results showed signs of infection. But it’s still unclear what caused Bridgit’s death. A final report from the Johns Hopkins University’s comparative anatomy lab is expected this week.

The deaths have shocked and disappointed aquarium personnel, who had watched the dolphin colony successfully raise all three calves born in 2001.

``I think we have stated that the wind was in our sails then,″ Geraci said. ``We were hopeful we could continue that.″

The National Aquarium has nine dolphins. They include three juveniles, three breeding females and three males.

The well-being of Baltimore’s dolphin colony is no small matter.

The National Aquarium draws more tourists to Baltimore than any other attraction except the Orioles. Aquarium officials said their dolphin shows _ six daily in summer _ are one of the biggest draws.

Visitors rarely see evidence of it, but infection and aggression are common hazards for marine mammals in the wild and in captivity. The former is unavoidable, said Ken Ramirez, vice president of marine mammal programs at Shedd Aquarium in Chicago.

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