The Marine Animal Rescue Program was started in 1993 at the National Aquarium, and is responsible for responding to marine mammal and sea turtle strandings in Maryland.
Jennifer Dittmar: “The program relies very heavily on volunteer assistance. At this time, we have about 45 active volunteers. They are responsible for taking care of animals that we may have in house. Anything from feeding the animals to giving them their medications.”
Kristina Cammen: “The marine mammals and the sea turtles that we work with, many of them are endangered. If we don’t do anything about it, these animals may go extinct or may disappear forever. So I felt this was a way that I could really help out with this issue.“
Narrator: To date, the program has helped over 200 animals and successfully released over 80 of them, many of which come from threatened or endangered populations. Monitoring the released animal can be a good indicator of the overall health of their species and the health of the ocean as well.
So before an animal is released back into the wild, it is fitted with a satellite-tracking device.
Jennifer: “Whenever the animal surfaces, it sends a signal to a satellite, the satellite will then send the location back to the computer. We affix the satellite tag to the animal’s fur. The thinking is that once the animals starts to shed their fur, the satellite tag will eventually fall out. So we don’t want the tag to stay with the animal permanently, just for long enough to know the release was successful.
The data we receive from the tag gets plugged into a mapping program and effectively we’ll create a tracking map that we post on the Aquarium’s web page and can be tracked by the public.”Narrator: Often an animal stranding can be traced back to a human-related cause. The program many animals that have been entangled in fishing lines and animals that have mistakenly swallowed plastic bags. It’s important to properly dispose of your trash or fishing gear to help keep the ocean and its inhabitants healthy.