The most beautiful creature I have ever seen in the wild is a pink dolphin. In fact it is the very pink dolphin you see in the photo below that I took on Louisiana's Lake Calcasieu (Big Lake) in 2010.
This dolphin is nicknamed "Pinky" and I have been blessed to see it on three separate occasions and it had it swim fairly close to our boat while drifting in the channel near Cameron, La. in 2013.
In my opinion anomalies like this are important because they raise awareness to issues in nature and in this case the presence and importance of marine mammals in the Gulf of Mexico.
According to Heidi Whitehead with the Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network, this partitcular dolphin has been observed for more than a decade.
We initially began receiving reports of the “pink” bottlenose in Calcasieu in 2007 and we worked with NOAA to educate people and reduce vessel traffic around the animal for the protection of the animal because there were so many wanting to get out to see it. There was also a pink dolphin observed in the Houston ship channel near Bolivar several years ago but it has not been confirmed whether or not this was a different animal than the Calcasieu one as we have seen evidence from our photo-ID work that dolphins travel between Galveston and Louisiana.
Whitehead provided us with a fact sheet from NOAA on pink and white albino dolphins in the Gulf of Mexico and it contains some truly interesting information.
While there have been many documented sightings of albino, “white” or “pink” bottlenose dolphins in the Gulf of Mexico; it is believed these sightings are of the same three individuals. The first was reported during the summer of 1994 in Little Lake near New Orleans, Louisiana.
The all-white dolphin was spotted in a group of 4-5 individuals for 20 to 30 minutes and never seen again. In September 2003, another all white dolphin calf was first observed in a group of more than 40 dolphins south of Galveston, Texas. It was re-sighted several times in the same vicinity through August 2004 (Fertl et al., 1999; Fertl et al., 2004).
This is what NOAA has to say about "Pinky" from the Lake Calcasieu area.
"Although the dolphin is often referred to as a “pink” dolphin because of its pink coloration, it is considered an albino. The dolphin’s mother is not albino and has the gray coloring typical of coastal bottlenose dolphins. Dolphin calves are typically born dark gray in color. All sightings of this dolphin have been off Louisiana and most of the time it was seen swimming with a group."
According to NOAA there have been "white" dolphin sightings along the eastern seaboard of the United States.
Other “white” dolphins have been sighted in the Southeast U.S. between 2012-2014, these include off the coast of South Carolina, NE Florida and Georgia, and in the Indian River Lagoon, Florida
If you see a pink or white dolphin call the Southeast US Marine Mammal Stranding Network at 1-877-433-8299. They are interested in getting information on these unique animals.
And so am I.
If you have photos or videos please send them along with photo credits and dates/timeline if possible.
I am working on a special project for kids regarding these colorful enigmatic marine mammals and would appreciate your help.
Chester Moore, Jr.