TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — The injuries to “Babyface” the dolphin were deep and threatened her life after a boat propeller cut deep gashes in the dolphin’s tail in July 2015.
Not long after the first photos of the dolphin were taken, Dr. Ann Weaver was able to identify the animal from markings on her dorsal fin. Weaver named the dolphin “Babyface” since she was born to a dolphin named “Face” in 2006.
“Babyface was the only calf born that year that survived,” said Weaver.
Weaver believes that because Babyface was an “only child” she learned to hunt faster and better than other young dolphins.
“Babyface sort of grew up quickly and that may have had something to do with her phenomenal success, because when she got hurt in 2015, she never lost any weight despite the grievous injuries,” said Weaver.
Weaver is on the water virtually every day and monitors dolphins under a permit from NOAA. She keeps a photo record of their behavior and identifying marks, and has developed a system to name and keep track of them based on the unique shapes of their dorsal fins.
Some have been bitten by sharks, and a few — like Babyface — were wounded by boats. In 14 years, she’s only identified three or perhaps four dolphins injured by boats.
“That says to me that the boaters are pretty good around here. What we see is boaters seeing dolphin, generally slowing down, spending a couple of minutes around them at slow speed or at idle and then moving on, cautiously,” Weaver said.
She points out feeding wildlife is illegal in Florida and the practice could kill a dolphin. In Babyface’s case, she was never captured or treated. Her wounds healed naturally.
“She is back to normal behavior. She spends a little bit of time foraging, a little bit of time socializing, a little bit of time with mothers with babies. She’s 10 years old, she should show an interest in calves because she is getting to the age where she could have her first calf,” Weaver said.
The wounds are still visible, but they’ve healed over and Weaver will continue to keep an eye on her to see if she can start raising a new generation of dolphin.