Cetacean Rehabilitation in Taiwan
IAAAM Archive
Wei-Cheng Yang1; Lien-Siang Chou2
1Taiwan Cetacean Society, Taipei, Taiwan; 2Department of Zoology, National Taiwan University


The Taiwan Cetacean Stranding Network (TCSN) was established in November 1996. The first case of rehabilitation by TCSN started in 1997. As of 2002, 35 stranded cetaceans had been rehabilitated, including seven Risso's dolphins (Grampus griseus), six rough-toothed dolphins (Steno bredanensis), six pygmy sperm whales (Kogia breviceps), four dwarf sperm whales (Kogia sima), five pantropical spotted dolphins (Stenella attenuata), two spinner dolphins (Stenella longirostris), two bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus), one long-beaked common dolphin (Delphinus capensis), one melon-headed whale (Peponocephala electra) and one finless porpoise (Neophocaena phocaenoides). These stranded animals were transported to nearby cooperative facilities including aquariums, sea world, fixed shallow pools, or temporary portable pools on seaside platforms. Most rehabilitated cetaceans died within one week. A few survived beyond one month. Among them, a male adult Risso's dolphin, a male juvenile rough-toothed dolphin, and a male juvenile pantropical spotted dolphin were released successfully in September 2000, May 2002, and October 2002, respectively. All stranded animals that were admitted to the critical care pool had a physical examination, blood drawn for CBC and biochemical analysis, fecal analysis for parasites, cultures taken when indicated, and an individual treatment regimen prescribed. Banking serum samples of stranded cetaceans during rehabilitation is critical for retrospective studies on the diseases, and the facility has done so routinely since 2000. Furthermore, we have tried to routinely use diagnostic equipment, such as radiology, sonography and endoscopy. Some weak cetaceans, with significant white blood cell elevations, that couldn't float well by themselves were given 24-hour supportive care with fluids and antibiotics. The most common clinical findings were respiratory problems. Other common problems included GI tract infection, parasites overload, malnutrition, electrolyte imbalance, cookie-cutter shark bite wounds, skeletal muscle injury, and anthropogenic objects in stomach. Additionally, a male adult pygmy sperm whale with severe respiratory syndrome and hypothermia died after five days; morbillivirus infection was confirmed by using pathology and PCR. Moderate antibody titers against Brucella sp. were detected in a female adult rough-toothed dolphin that died after six days of rehabilitation. The research on these two important zoonotic diseases as potentially significant causes of morbidity and/or mortality in cetacean populations in Taiwan is being carried out through collaboration with several other institutions. Although rehabilitation of cetaceans in Taiwan has improved much in the last seven years due to many dedicated specialists, researchers and volunteers, we desperately need a long-term facility and grant support for research, better care, and subsequent tracking of stranded cetaceans.

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Lien-Siang Chou

Wei-Cheng Yang

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