Yesterday morning, a beached false killer whale was spotted stranded and in distress along North Chesterman beach near Tofino. The male calf, which is estimated to be between four to six weeks old, is in poor condition with several laceration and wounds along his body, likely from stranding. As Canada’s only team of professional rescue staff readily available to save stranded cetaceans, Vancouver Aquarium’s Marine Mammal Rescue Centre was brought in to save the distressed false killer whale.

The calf was transported to the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre for immediate treatment. The Rescue Centre’s team, led by Aquarium head veterinarian Dr. Martin Haulena, is working around-the-clock to provide critical care.

The team was able to provide this immediate care due to its 50+ years of marine mammal rescue experience. This expertise is only made possible through its work with the cetaceans in our care.

False Killer Whale, Vancouver Aquarium Marine Mammal Rescue Centre

Our Marine Mammal Rescue team prepares the calf for transport.

Now the hard work has begun to save the whale. The biggest challenges lie within the first 24 hours as the calf is very young, and his teeth have not erupted yet which indicates that he was still nursing from his mother. Although the transport yesterday went well, the whale is in critical condition, and the rescue staff noticed some worrying dips in his heart rate and respiration last evening. The whale has been started on treatment and diagnostic tests. The hope is that he begins to recover and slowly gain weight.

False Killer Whale Calf is transported back to the Rescue Centre.

It took hours of hard work and a team effort to rescue the stranded cetacean from the beach. Staff from the Ministry of Forest, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, the District of Tofino bylaw enforcement and Parks Canada worked together with officers from Fisheries and Oceans Canada to support the calf until the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre team could arrive to begin treatment.

Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, Stranded False Killer Whale

False Killer Whale Calf arrives at the Rescue Centre, around the clock care begins.

Historically, stranded cetaceans have had a low chance of survival. It’s always touch-and-go with young marine mammals who have become separated from their mothers, and rescuing a false killer whale is a new experience — very few veterinarians and other professionals around-the-world have experience rehabilitating stranded false killer whale calves.

A member of the dolphin family, the false killer whale (Pseudorca crassidens) is a distinct species from the more commonly known killer whale (Orcinus orca). Globally widespread, but locally uncommon, false killer whales are an open ocean species found in the tropics in all oceans of the world, and only occasionally spotted in B.C. waters.

The Vancouver Aquarium is a self-supporting, non-profit society and does not receive ongoing funds for rescue efforts such as this one. To support the efforts of the Rescue Centre, please visit here.

7 Responses

  1. Gwyn McIntosh

    Looking for further update… I realize it’s possibly touch and go with the calf being so little… Sending our best wishes for strength and resilience against the odds!!

    Reply
    • Vancouver Aquarium

      Thank you Gwyn for your kind words! The false killer whale has begun suckling from a special bottle and has been slowly increasing his strength, buoyancy and coordination. We are all keeping our fingers crossed. The latest updates with photos and videos of the calf can be found on our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/vanaqua. Check back soon for more updates!

      Reply
  2. Robynne

    Glad you are there to help these marine mammals. Many people are behind you and the calf, hoping for a full recovery and lots of learning along the way that will aid with future rescues and rehabilitations back to the sea. With the many threats posed to marine creatures, your services are sadly much needed. Keep up the good work.

    Reply
  3. Isabel

    Is there any new news about the baby? I was part of the team that held him up for hours in the surf…I hope he’s ok or at peace…

    Reply
    • Vancouver Aquarium

      Thank you Isabel for your efforts in helping to rescue the false killer whale. The calf is still at our facility and is slowly starting to recover. He isn’t out of the critical stage of care yet, but our dedicated team is working around the clock to ensure he has the best care possible. We have been sending out photos and updates on his story via our Twitter handle @VancouverAqua and on our Facebook page. Thank you again for your conservation efforts. Our work at the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre is made possible through many people like yourself coming together to support the Aquarium and injured or stranded animals.

      Reply
  4. Gail

    Please have regular updates on the False Killer Whale Calf. I am constantly praying for this little sweetheart and all of the incredible people who caring for him or her.

    Thank you to everyone for your incredible work and commitment to our marine mammals.
    Gail

    Reply
  5. Mark Trimm

    Way to go you guys and girls!! Good luck with the calf and keep up the Fantastic Work!!

    Reply

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