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Dolphins Also Counted as Displaced Survivors of Katrina

Each day since Hurricane Katrina ravaged the American Gulf Coast, there have been stories of survival: most have been about the people of Louisiana and Mississippi who overcame great odds to make it to shelter. But there is other good news involving the residents of an aquarium in Gulfport, Mississippi. VOA's Melinda Smith has the story of eight bottlenose dolphins that were washed out of their home and somehow managed to survive.

The dolphins have had to fend for themselves since they were forced out three weeks ago by the tidal surge of Hurricane Katrina.

Dr. Moby Solangi, director of the Marine Life Oceanarium was overjoyed to find them: "It was total astonishment and a miracle that you have eight dolphins that swept away and are now right back in your backyard and you can touch them,” said Dr. Solangi.

“They don't have FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Agency] ... they don't have anybody else but their trainers."

The dolphins seemed happy to see their trainers too. A little worse for the wear, the mammals have lost weight.

Jeff Foster, of the National Marine Fisheries, doubts they could have survived much longer: "They've lost the hunting skills to survive out there..."

The dolphins have been trained to beach themselves on a mat ... and so two of the weakest willingly surrendered. Then those two were taken to temporary shelter: the swimming pool at a nearby Holiday Inn. They seemed in good spirits and were ready to play.

"There's a lot that could harm them out there, so it's a good feeling," said dolphin trainer Marci Romgnoli.

The marine biologists hope to capture the remaining six dolphins, possibly with nets. All of the animals will be sent to other facilities, until a new aquarium is built in Mississippi.

Dr. Salongi wishes they could talk: "If they could speak, they would tell a tale of survival."