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Florida Fish and Wildlife found the adult male bottlenose dolphin in May along Upper Captiva Island in Florida’s Lee County, reported NBC2.
A necropsy revealed the “begging dolphin” had been stabbed with an object resembling a spear above its right eye and going as deep as six inches, the broadcaster reported.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) determined the animal had been alive when it was impaled.
“The wound ended inside the head at the top of the skull and had evidence of hemorrhaging, indicating wounds consistent with being impaled before death,” NOAA stated on its website.
“There was a wound penetrating from above and in front of the right eye, extending almost 6 inches towards the top and back of the head,” the statement read.
According to NOAA, local biologists were familiar with this specific adult male dolphin and said it was last seen around fishing boats in the company of “begging dolphins.” The agency believes the animal may have been in a “begging” position when it was impaled, citing the position of the wound.
The agency is asking anyone who may have information about the dolphin or details related to the crime to contact the NOAA Enforcement Hotline at 1-800-853-1964. Tips may be left anonymously.
NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement and its agency partners are offering a reward of $38,000 for the “successful identification and/or successful prosecution for the person(s) responsible and/or an arrest, conviction or civil penalty assessment.” Callers must leave a name and contact information to be eligible for the reward.
The agency partners include: Lightkeepers, the Human Society of the United States, the Animal Welfare Institute, Cet Law, legaSeas, Oceanic Preservation Society, and the International Fund for Animal Behavior and Conservation MA program.
Since 2002, at least 26 dolphins, including the dolphin in question, have been the subject of violence by being shot by either guns or arrows, or stabbed by sharp objects.
NOAA advises people to avoid feeding wild dolphins to prevent the animals from associating people, boats, and fishing gear with food, which can put both people and dolphins in dangerous situations.
Under the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972, harassing, harming, or feeding marine mammals is illegal. People caught doing any of the above can be fined up to $100,000 and face imprisonment for up to one year.
Attraction Closes After 4 Dolphin Deaths
In Phoenix, Arizona, a marine park has temporarily closed after two years of operation following the deaths of four dolphins at the park.
Animal rights advocates targeted Dolphinaris Arizona, saying that putting dolphins in pools on tribal land in the desert was tantamount to animal cruelty.
Since its opening, four dolphins have died, with the latest death occurring Jan. 31 when a 22-year-old dolphin named Kai had difficulty swimming, eating, and breathing.
Dolphinaris Arizona said it would close temporarily beginning on Feb. 8, as a panel of experts investigates potential factors in the dolphin deaths.
Two of the facility’s four remaining dolphins will be returned to Dolphin Quest, a company that loans dolphins to attractions. The other two will be moved to another licensed facility while Dolphinaris Arizona is being evaluated.
Federal regulators said they had done four inspections of Dolphinaris since it opened. They haven’t taken any enforcement actions or issued any citations.
However, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service said it’s aware of the latest dolphin death. The department is “working on the next course of action.” It declined to elaborate.
Dolphinaris Arizona is one of five dolphin parks operated by Mexico City-based Ventura Entertainment. The others are in Mexico.
The Phoenix area facility is believed to be the first newly constructed dolphin facility in the United States in a decade. Their people can swim and play with dolphins in pools on the edge of a dirt and cactus landscape.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.