Roxanne the Risso’s dolphin, who was found stranded and malnourished on Oak Beach in June and has been rehabilitating in Riverhead, has returned to the wild, freeing up the only dolphin rehabilitation tank on the northeastern coast for bottlenose dolphins that have been dying up and down the east coast this year.
Roxanne received a flurry of donations this month after a twitter campaign that received national television attention raised nearly $6,000 for her release this month. She was taken out to the ocean through the Shinnecock Canal on Stony Brook University’s Seawolf on Wednesday.
Her release comes on the heels of news from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Tuesday that the 347 bottlenose dolphins found dead on the East Coast this summer were, in fact, suffering from morbillivirus, a measles-like infection that could be making its way through the dolphin population through next spring.
Dolphins with morbillivirus often have skin lesions and pneumonia-like symptoms.
NOAA is urging people to keep their pets away from sick dolphins on the shore and not to swim with open wounds as a precautionary measure, even though the virus cannot spread to humans.
Though Roxanne was not suffering from morbillivirus, she was living in the only tank in the northeast that could be used to rehabilitate dolphins who have morbillivirus, at the Riverhead Foundation’s headquarters at the Long Island Aquarium on East Main Street in Riverhead.
Morbillivirus killed more than 700 bottlenose dolphins on the East Coast in the late-1980s.
The Riverhead Foundation is tracking Roxanne’s progress out to the open sea here.