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Caring Kids Show Their Mettle After Finding Baby Dolphin

Le Jardin Academy students (from left) Jaquie Stark, Lily Schaberg, Emma Schaberg, Maddy Memering, Mia Barrett and Marisa Barrett had a unique 'dolphin adventure' at Kailua Beach recently. Photo from Cynthia Manley.

Editor’s note: Donna Festa is a volunteer with the NOAA/NMFS marine mammal response network who also runs a nonprofit Hawaiian monk seal response group. She is proprietor of Lanikai General Store in Kailua Beach Center. This is her report to Le Jardin Academy on an incident earlier this month at Kailua Beach Park.

I am writing to you to express my gratitude for a group of your students who went above and beyond the call of duty. I received a call from NOAA on March 3 reporting a stranded dolphin on Kailua Beach. This in itself is rare but has happened a couple of times in the last five years. This type of call is always difficult because the end result is sad whenever we lose a marine mammal of any sort. But this day, I was pleasantly surprised to get to the site and be greeted by six amazing young ladies.

They found the dolphin and told their parents, but that wasn’t enough. They spent at least 40 minutes looking up who to call on their smart phones. They succeeded by calling the NOAA/NMFS hotline; they gave precise instructions on the location and waited almost an hour for the first person to respond (another volunteer). They greeted Tony and brought him to the site. The dolphin was deceased and up on the reef in front of a private residence. The homeowner was equally impressed by these young ladies and she provided them with lemonade and a snack.

It didn’t end there. When I arrived on the scene I spent some time explaining to them a little about why this type of thing may happen, and my role as a volunteer was to just make sure the animal and site remained untouched. I went on to explain that dolphins were protected under the Marine Mammal Species Act, and even though this one was deceased, we needed to wait for HPU professor Kristi West to arrive and assess the situation. I also explained Dr. Kristi would most likely remove the dolphin and bring it back to the university to perform a necropsy to determine whether the dolphin died of natural causes or if it was harmed in any way.

They patiently waited for the team from HPU to arrive and asked questions, but never got in the way or disturbed anyone from getting the job done.

At the end of the day, I was most impressed by their concern, commitment to do the right thing, and how they maintained a level of maturity beyond their years. I asked them what they want to be when they grow up and the majority said marine biologist, one veterinarian and a couple of bakers (everyone has to eat!).

One of the things we do as volunteers is to teach the next generation they CAN make a difference, and right here in their backyard they have opportunities to learn and apply that knowledge to the future of our ocean’s health and the beautiful creatures that live with in it.

I informed the parents on the beach of what a great job their girls had done, but I wanted to take it a step further and let their teachers know. This group of six made a difference, and they taught me a lesson that day. There is definitely hope for the future with attitudes like theirs. They are: seventh-grader Mia Barrett; sixth-graders Marisa Barrett, Maddy Memering, Emma Schaberg and Jaquie Stark, and third-grader Lily Schaberg.

Latest update: The dolphin’s cause of death is unknown, as HPU awaits test results from blood work and tissue samples.

(NOAA/NMFS stands for National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service.)