I am Gail Laule, founder of Wildlife in Need (WIN) California, and WIN Rescue Center, Philippines. WIN is sponsoring this fundraising effort for some very special dolphins and sea lions, my personal friends, living at an open-water marine park called Ocean Adventure (OA) in Subic Bay, Philippines. Like many other animal facilities in the world, OA is struggling to survive and to continue to provide quality food and the best care and welfare for these special animals.
Our story begins…
To understand the connection between WIN and OA, we have to go back 20 years. I first came to Subic Bay to co-found OA and to create a fantastic home for marine mammals we were able to expatriate from China. Today the 6 dolphins, 3 of whom are pregnant right now, live in huge open water lagoons up to 50 feet deep, with live fish, corals, and other sea creatures.
The 11 sea lions, 8 of which were born at OA, live in a complex of pools in the natural waters of Subic Bay. They had a big natural lagoon when we first arrived, but it became quite hazardous because of their insatiable curiosity. They were continually getting into trouble with spiny fish and toxic sea snakes. And, despite our vision of the good life, when given the choice, they preferred their safe comfortable pools. So now they have great big ones to swim and socialize in.
Once in Subic Bay, OA supported my efforts to found the WIN Rescue Center, where we care for sick, injured, and confiscated wildlife. We rehabilitate and return these animals to the wild, and for those deemed unreleasable, we provide a safe, permanent home . So we are rescue center and sanctuary, all in one. Our most frequent rescues are Long Tailed Macaques confiscated from the cruel and illegal wildlife pet trade. We socialize these animals into family groups and then reintroduce them back to the wild. We currently have a reintroduction of 6 animals underway.
Our other major initiative is caring for injured fruit bats from a local mixed colony of endangered Golden Crowned Flying Fox and Giant Malayan Fruit Bats. May and June is pupping season, so every morning we go on a “search and rescue” mission underneath the colony listening and looking for baby bats that have fallen from their moms.
Saving wild dolphins
Besides rescuing forest wildlife, WIN and OA joined together to found the Philippine Marine Mammal Stranding Network. We were already responding to dolphin strandings on our own, but the country needed something much bigger than us. So, we provided funding for stakeholders in government and local communities to come to OA and learn how to rescue and rehabilitate sick and injured whales and dolphins. Through our Marine Mammal Stranding Response Workshop over 3,000 professionals and laypersons throughout the country have been trained on these techniques. The dolphins you will be helping today participated in the Emergency First Responder portion of the workshop by serving as “stranded” dolphins for participants to practice rescuing. Our Workshop on the Medical Management of Stranded Marine Mammals has trained several hundred veterinarians and medical professionals to support stranding efforts around the country. So, as you can see, OA is not just another marine park.
Meet the dolphins that need your help
Over the years many stranded dolphins were brought to OA for intensive care. Many cases began with staff and volunteers in the water around-the-clock literally supporting the animals so they wouldn’t drown.
This was often followed by weeks, even months of rehabilitation. Once finally nursed back to health, some animals were simply unable to survive back in the wild, so they were provided a permanent sanctuary at OA. Two of the dolphins currently seeking your support and generosity were rescued by OA. Let me introduce them to you.
Sam is a Spotted Dolphin. He was one of 3 male dolphins, traveling together, who became entrapped in fish pens. We don’t know exactly what happened next, but his friends did not make it. Sam was the lone survivor, and was brought to OA with an array of physical injuries and damage to his eyes. His rehabilitation took months, and once he was deemed fit, he had become too friendly and dependent upon human care to survive in the wild. And he had no group to return to. So Sam was introduced to the other dolpins at OA and became a comfortable and confident member of his new family.
Valentina is a tiny female Spinner dolphin who was rescued in the northern part of Luzon island on Valentines Day. She was the first of a number of dolphins rescued over several months who were victims of the horrid illegal practice of dynamite fishing. She traveled for 12 hours by truck to OA and proved to be a resilient little patient with a fierce will to live. She triggered our interest in studying these dolphins so we brought a researcher and expert in dophin acoustics from Hawaii, Dr. Aude Pacini, to test their hearing. Valentina and 3 others were found to have varying degrees of hearing loss. We decided to test Sam, and found that he too had hearing impairment. Valentina was such a willing subject, happy to float calmly in the arms of her caregivers, a second researcher, Adam Smith, studied her sonar capabilities and she became the subject of a scientific publication on “transmission beam patterns” in spinner dolphins.
Enzo, Haley, Vi and Nala
Sam and Valentina live with 4 bottlenose dolphins – Enzo, Haley, Vi, and Nala.
Enzo is an easy-going guy. Because of his laid-back personality, he often plays the role of “stranded dolphin” in the Emergency First Responder training workshops, teaching participants how to rescue dolphins.
Vi has a sweet disposition and caring nature. That makes her a kind leader and matriarch of the group.
Hali is playful and full of energy, always ready to learn something new.
Nala is the smallest member of the group, friendly, outgoing, and sociable.
I’ll share more intimate details and great photos about these 6 charismatic and personable dolphins over the coming weeks. But let me assure you that this eclectic group of individuals of 3 different species is a tight knit modern family in every sense of the word. And they need your help.
Like facilities all over the world, the consequences of the coronavirus have hit OA and WIN hard. No donations to WIN, and no visitors and no revenue at OA for animal food. And dolphins and sea lions are very expensive to feed! Local fish stocks are insufficient and of questionable quality, so the safe, nutritious fish they need is brought by a 40-foot container all the way from Alaska and Canada. There is currently enough fish to last another month. But with potential supply chain disruptions and other unforeseen complications, there is a desperate need to purchase the next fish delivery as quickly as possible.
How you can help
We need to raise $100,000 to feed these wonderful dolphins and sea lions for the next 6 months and to restock the critical medicines necessary to have on hand for emergencies. Along with feeding the resident animals, we must always be prepared for the next stranded dolphin that needs our help. Despite the current crisis, OA has continued to help in dolphin rescues, 4 in the last 2 months alone! That means ensuring a sufficient supply of food and medicines at all times.
We do understand that not everyone is able to give at this time due to the hardships caused by the COVID-19 virus. We all have our personal struggles we’re facing. But it is our hope and prayer that some of you are able to help, and can find it in your hearts to give, even a little. Every dollar counts. You have WIN’s assurance and absolute guarantee that 100% of donations go directly to food and medicines for the animals. We will be forever grateful for whatever help and kindness you can share. And when the horror and uncertainty of this crisis has passed, you will forever be our heroes and heroines, personal rescuers of the animals, helping them in a time of need. Because what you do makes a difference. And if you happen to be in the Philippines, and can stop by Subic Bay, you will be our honored guests at the WIN Rescue Center and at Ocean Adventure.
Remember, rescuing one animal may not change the world, but for that animal their world is changed forever. Thank you.