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New Coronavirus Found in Dolphins Exploited by U.S. Navy

New Coronavirus Found in Dolphins Exploited by U.S. Navy

The novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) has caused a global pandemic, infecting millions of people and seriously disrupting daily life. But people aren’t the only ones at risk of contracting this, or other coronaviruses. In the spring of 2019, another novel coronavirus strain infected captive bottlenose dolphins currently “owned” by the U.S. Navy — an eerie foreshadowing of things to come in 2020.

The Navy holds around 85 captive dolphins in pens in San Diego Bay, a stone’s throw from SeaWorld. These dolphins are used in painful animal experiments, and are kept in depressingly small sea pens in the ocean just off the coast. 

The American Veterinary Medical Association reported that sea lions and bottlenose dolphins at the Navy facility began developing symptoms of an illness; they were lethargic, not eating and had diarrhea. Upon testing, it was discovered as being a novel coronavirus, known as a gamma coronavirus.

While all the dolphins recovered from the virus, they remain at the Navy facility, where they will likely be subjected to ongoing medical testing, and denied any opportunity to live their lives as they deserve — in the wild, wide ocean. Hopefully, when seaside sanctuaries for cetaceans begin to come online in North America, the Navy will send their remaining charges for permanent retirement. 

Click here to learn more about the plight of captive dolphins.

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