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Pony Tales September 2011

Pony Tales header

By Lulu

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Micah and I had an opportunity to do something so awesome I just have to share it. We were in Monroe County (Key Largo to Key West) doing the research for September’s article County by County Riding Florida and happened to stay at the Hampton Inn in Key Largo. While walking past the poolside Tiki bar Micah noticed an unusual “pen like” area in the waters adjacent to the hotel property and asked the bartender what it was. She told us it was the Marine Mammal Conservancy and that they were seeking volunteers to save a pilot whale. Curiosity got the better of us and we wandered over to see what was up. Sure enough there were two pilot whales that had been rescued after they had beached themselves along with a pod of others. The youngest #301 was already swimming on its own, but #300 a teenager still had to be held up in the water to recover from pneumonia. 24 hours a day for 10 weeks they had been holding up this whale!!

Pilot whale #300 is from open waters (not from captivity). Somehow this wild mammal knows the humans are trying to save her and allows them to hold her without harming them. She is referred to by #300, not a name, to keep volunteers and staff from becoming too attached. Which is silly, as I only helped cradle #300 for one shift and I already felt connected to this creature. To volunteer you receive a brief instruction on the dangers and procedures to keep from being harmed by her and to keep from causing harm! You then step into a wet suit, spray down with Off and off you go to your post of whale “cradleling” for four hours.

Our shift was 8pm-midnite although by the time the next shift entered the water it was nearly 1am. My muscles ached not so much from the actual weight of holding the 1200 pound creature but the worry of being the one who might allow her to submerge and take water in her blow hole which would set her recovery back 1-2 weeks. I held her the first hour as if I was holding her life in my hands, after my first break I was more relaxed and used the “hip cradling” they teach you more effectively. Micah never took a break at all. Both of us are Pisces and love the water, but anyone who knows me knows I am a bit of a hypochondriac and I had to face some fears other than the teeth marks on the staffs forearms and size of #300 to enter the water, Mosquitoes (West Nile Virus) and MERSA! But somehow knowing that I was going to matter in #300’s life coaxed me into the water. Once in the dark water with the weight of #300 being shared with the 3 volunteers and watching the staff doing vital signs, nebulizer treatments and feedings the 4 hours passed quickly. Please check out their website and if you find yourself in Key Largo stop in volunteer, make a donation or bring some much needed supplies. This particular pilot whale may need another 2-4 months to achieve full recovery. Other mammals may be rescued before #300 is released.

You must be 18 to enter the water with the mammals, but there didn’t appear to be an elder age cut off. I was quite impressed by the senior age of some of these volunteers and it kept me from being wimpy out there in the murky water. The work here is endless and you will be surprised how rewarding your donation of time will feel. Earlier the same day we paid over $150 to swim with a sea lion for 30 minutes on Key Largo and felt foolish for having done so when less than a few miles away there was a pilot whale needing someone to spend 4 hours with her for FREE.

Hold something’s life in your hands, make a contribution to Marine Mammal Conservancy and don’t forget your sunscreen!

3 Responses to “Pony Tales September 2011”

  • Leah Lalande:

    LuLu, your article brought tears to my eyes. Only someone who has been in the water with one of God’s creatures can appreciate the beauty of what you and Micah partipated in. When I was 12, my folks took us to Santini’s Porpoise School, at that time on Grassy Key, and I got to jump into the water with Mitzi, an adult porpoise. Now, for those of us our age, we would remember Mitzi by her “stage” name, Flipper! Yep, I rode the original Flipper across her natural pen and it was the most exciting experience of my life! When I decided to get a tattoo, the choice was easy – A dolphin coming out of the water on it’s tail with the sunset behind her. And, my email address – well, it’s not hard too figure it out when you know my love of Dolphins – DLFNRDR!!!!!

    Thanks for your articles. Being able to “see” all of the awesome things you and Micah do on your motorcycling journeys through your eyes, is inspiring! This one made me want to ride down to Key Largo today!!!


  • Lori Coburn:

    After reading this I too found myself with a very heavy heart to say the least. What a once in a lifetime experience for sure. Thank you for sharing your many adventures with us. Both of you are amazing people and I am very proud to have you as friends! I look forward to hearing of a full recovery of #300!

  • [...] strong sun more tolerable for long distances. I stopped in to check on the pilot whale #300 (see Pony Tales Sept. 2011) on our trip through Key Largo and was pleased to find out she had recovered and was moved to Sea [...]

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