My Job: Treating Dolphins and Seals Can be Rewarding and Heartbreaking
Name: Gregg Levine, DVM
Job: Marine-mammal veterinarian at Dolphin Quest facilities on Oahu and the Big Island, contract veterinarian for the National Marine Fisheries, and small-animal veterinarian and acupuncturist.
Years of experience: 12
Toughest part: No matter what kind of animal he is treating, the toughest part is the effects of senseless cruelty. “This may be attending to a dog that has been tied up and neglected or examining a seal that has been shot or entangled in fishing nets.”
Worst assignment: Levine is always on call. Ten years ago, while spending the day with Julie, now his wife, he was called to respond to a flailing dolphin in front of a family’s home in Hauula. The couple arrived to find the family in calm, shallow waters, holding a baby spotted dolphin that was unable to swim. Family members had been holding it for two hours so it would not drown.
Levine had the 20-pound calf transported to a Fisheries Service facility and spent the next three days working around the clock to provide it nutrition and hydration, and keep it from drowning in the hospital pool. Despite his efforts, the calf succumbed to an infection and died.
“I remember having to pull over on the Pali (Highway) on the way back to the Windward Side to just close my eyes,” Levine says. Physically and emotionally drained, he slept in his car for three hours, only to be roused by a police officer.
Rewards: Levine enjoys nurturing the special relationship between people and animals. “Whether (you’re) working with marine mammals and their caregivers, the owner of a new puppy, or the rancher with his herd of cattle or horses, it is a true honor to be able to work with people and the animals in their lives.”
Pay: Marine-mammal veterinarians can make from $65,000 to $100,000 a year in Hawaii. The median yearly salary for veterinarians in private clinical practice in the U.S. is $97,000.