HILO, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - A sick, stranded dolphin passed away late Tuesday afternoon.
It was the first to be treated at the newly built rehab facility for marine mammals in Hilo.
At around 2 p.m., Monday, several people in the small fishing town of Milolii on the Big Island's Southwestern side, noticed a stranded dolphin just offshore.
It was then sent to the Hawaii Cetacean Rehab Facility for treatment.
The dolphin fought to stay alive for about a day, showing small signs of recovery.
It's a bittersweet moment for the Hawaii Cetacean Rehab Facility. Despite its very first patient passing away, there was still a lot to learn from the student volunteers to the rehab workers.
"It was good for the Hawaii state network and great for the volunteers they really put in the effort," Facility director Dr. Jason Turner said.
But it wasn't enough, as the nearly 200-pound adult male Striped Dolphin was too sick to survive.
"Its blood work shows it's a very, very sick dolphin and that it stranded like any other animal for a reason and that it's very, very sick," NOAA Marine Mammal Response coordinator Dave Schofield said.
At around 3 p.m., Tuesday, rehab workers decided to do X-rays on the dolphin, but it was during this process when it got too stressed out.
"Got him back into the pool and 10-15 minutes later, he started doing what you would call a death swim," Turner said.
He would pass away shortly after, on its own.
Doctors say this experience shows the importance of having such a facility in Hawaii. Opened just in December, it was funded by a $100,000 grant from NOAA Fisheries Service.
It's housed at UH-Hilo's Pacific Aquaculture and Coastal Resources Center near Hilo Harbor.
It has a covered 25,000 gallon saltwater pool and can hold one or two small whales or dolphins at a time.
Its first patient fought hard, but couldn't hold on, leaving us with many lessons to learn.
"Marine mammals are indicators of ocean health and so we learn from these animals where they come ashore, they teach us about the health of that population as well as the health of nearshore waters," Schofield said.
There are future plans to expand the facility. This includes a large 85-foot diameter outdoor pool and another building to house several custom pools.