Bucky was rescued from the Nambucca River as an infant dolphin, extremely sunburnt and dehydrated .
Bucky was rescued from the Nambucca River as an infant dolphin, extremely sunburnt and dehydrated . Gail Adamson

Bucky pulls through to make medical history

BUCKY the dolphin has pulled through a world-first surgical procedure to remove cancer.

At 48, he is the Dolphin Marine Conservation Park's (DMCP) oldest resident.

He was rescued from the Nambucca River as an infant, extremely sunburnt and dehydrated and brought back to DMCP for rehabilitation.

Ultimately he was deemed unreleasable, so the park became his home.

Bucky was first diagnosed with cancer in 2008 when carers noticed an ulcer in the back of his mouth and after successful surgery, the disease went into remission.

But recently it returned and invaded his lymphatic system.

After consulting with experts worldwide, DMCP veterinarian, Dr Duan March determined the only hope was surgery to remove the cancerous node before it spread.

This was a tough decision to make as cetaceans (dolphins and whales) are challenging to anaesthetise, and in most cases, do not survive the procedure.

USA expert, Dr James Bailey agreed to travel to Australia to anaesthetise Bucky.

Dr Maureen Thompson brought her team from Brisbane to perform the surgery.

Many other notable Australian veterinarians and vet nurses assisted in this groundbreaking procedure.

Never before in the world had a dolphin of Bucky's age been anaesthetised, operated on with such invasive surgery and survived. It was a risk, but thankfully it's paid off.

The operation was conducted on March 30 with a team of more than 20 in attendance. Remarkably and to everyone's relief, the procedure was a success.

Bucky has made medical history. The information and learnings gained from his operation are invaluable and now available to help in the care and welfare of cetaceans worldwide.

"Bucky is a true hero. Everyone at Dolphin Marine Conservation Park, especially the team of carers and other staff who helped in his operation and recovery have expressed enormous thanks and sincere appreciation to Dr James Bailey, Dr Maureen Thompson, Dr Duan March and the team of professionals who worked on Bucky," DMCP Managing Director, Terry Goodall said.

Now, after two months of careful rehabilitation, he is recovering exceptionally well.

He remains under constant monitoring, but all indications are that Bucky's remarkable recovery will continue.

He has rejoined playmates Calamity, Jet, Zipper and Bella and looking forward to seeing his many admirers, showing off his scar, which is healing well, and throwing his football to passing guests.