Bruce and I had the privilege of helping at the Marine Mammal Conservancy in Key Largo, Florida. They currently have 3 short-finned pilot whales, who beached themselves in early May. Before we could get into the water with the whales we had to go through a briefing, both for our and the whales protection. We learned that the whales were in a field hospital equivalent of an ICU. We needed to keep our voices down and our movements slow and easy. Our jobs in the water were to help support the whales, to allow them to rest. Bruce and I did two four hour shifts over two days. We were in the water supporting the whales several times during the two shifts. We also got to help when the whales received physical therapy and I helped a trainer feed one of the whales.
Our brief visit to the Conservancy was a real eye opener in the workings of a large animal field hospital. The dedication and resourcefulness of the staff was impressive, as was their seemly endless patience with both the numerous volunteers and the sick whales. Clearly, the need of volunteers was critical to the hospitals operation. The staff was very good about explaining what they needed help with and was constantly on the lookout for the volunteer’s safety. I personally felt very well looked after by all of the Conservancy’s staff. All in all a very gratifying experience.