Successful Rehabilitation, In Situ, of a Seriously Wounded Harbour Porpoise--The First Documented Sighting in the Mediterranean Sea
IAAAM Archive
A. Komnenou1; A. Drougas2; A. Dessiris1
1Clinic Of Surgery, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (AUTH), Thessaloniki, Greece; 2T.E.I of Piraeus, Dept. of Physics, Chemistry & Materials Technology, Aegaleo, Greece.


On the 26th of June 1997 an adult female harbour porpoise (Phocoena phocoena) stranded wounded at the shallows of Panagia bay, at Halkidiki, N. Aegean Sea, Greece. Members of the Rescue team from the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine (AUTH) arrived on the spot in 3 hours time after the animal was stranded. The animals' condition was evaluated as critical.

The animal looked exhausted, swam in circles with its body partially immersed and its head slightly inclined leftwards. The clinical examination revealed that the porpoise was 1.57 m. long, in moderate body condition and dehydrated. It also suffered from a) deep bleeding wound of the right lid while the right eye was missing, b) a deep non bleeding old trauma on the left lateral abdominal area, c) a deep wound on the left of the blowhole, d) an abrasion of lower jaw and e) many superficial wounds. The animal was transferred in a swimming pool and blood samples for hematology and serum chemistry were taken. The results showed leucocytosis with relative neutrophilia, mild to moderate elevation of LDH, glycose, sodium and potassium and total protein decrease. After 8 hours staying in the swimming pool, the animal was transferred back into the sea for being treated within its natural environment since its staying in the pool proved to be stressful. Antibiotics and non-steroid inflammatory drugs were given im and multivitamins pos for 7 days. Fluids and electrolytes were also given orally for the first 48 hours by a stomach tube and fresh fish for the rest of the treatment.

Harbour porpoises are considered very sensitive to changes and easily undergo 'terminal nervous shock' when treated. They frequently die within minutes when they are removed from the seawater. Instead, this wounded porpoise became surprisingly very cooperative with the rescue team and showed a gradual improvement of her condition. Ten days later and after getting stronger, the wild mammal swam off the bay and disappeared.

This is a unique case of a successful rehabilitation of a porpoise in the wild, since the rehabilitation of these animals is complex and the chances of returning a viable individual back to the wild are limited. Also, this case is very important since it became the first recorded sighting of this rare species of harbour porpoise in the Mediterranean Sea after its sudden disappearance from this territory at the end of the 19th century. From further research on the species population distribution, in our opinion the porpoise either belonged to the Azov-Black Sea's isolated resident porpoise population and following its seafood through the Bosporous Straits was wounded or it might have been part of an isolated remnant local population in the Aegean Sea which is threatened with extinction.

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A. Komnenou

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