Rehabilitation and release of marine mammals in the United States : risks and benefits
Moore, Michael J.
Early, Greg A.
Touhey, Kathleen M.
Barco, Susan G.
Gulland, Frances M.
Wells, Randall S.
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Rehabilitation of stranded marine mammals elicits polarized attitudes: initially done alongside display collections, but release of rehabilitated animals has become more common. Justifications include animal welfare, management of beach use conflict, research, conservation, and public education. Rehabilitation cost and risks have been identified which vary in degree supported by data rather than perception. These include conflict with fisheries for resources, ignorance of recipient population ecology, poor understanding of long term survival, support of the genetically not-so-fit, introduction of novel or antibiotic resistant pathogens, harm to human health and cost. Thus facilities must balance their welfare appeal against public education, habitat restoration, human impact reduction, and other conservation activities. Benefits to rehabilitating marine mammals are the opportunity to support the welfare of disabled animals and to publish good science and so advance our understanding of wild populations. In specific cases, the status of a population may make conservation the main reason for rehabilitation. These three reasons for rehabilitation lead to contrasting, and sometimes conflicting, management needs. We therefore outline a decision tree for rehabilitation managers using criteria for each management decision, based on welfare, logistics, conservation, research and funding to define limits on the number of animals released to the wild.
Author Posting. © Society for Marine Mammalogy, 2007. This is the author's version of the work. It is posted here by permission of John Wiley & Sons for personal use, not for redistribution. The definitive version was published in Marine Mammal Science 23 (2007): 731-750, doi:10.1111/j.1748-7692.2007.00146.x.
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