Chester, the false killer whale rescued from a Tofino beach last year, is having a whale of a time this summer! Late in June, he moved into the Wild Coast habitat and met Helen the Pacific white-sided dolphin, and on July 10, we celebrated the one-year anniversary of his rescue.
Brian Sheehan, marine mammal curator, says training for both husbandry as well as physical and mental stimulation takes place throughout each day. “His integration with Helen continues to exceed our expectations. We’re seeing increased frequency in the number of interactions between the two involving tactile, active play sessions as well as calm swims with each other.”
Dr. Martin Haulena, head veterinarian, agrees. “I am extremely impressed by his medical behaviours already; he is a lively whale that enjoys his interactions with the trainers who care for him. We’re monitoring him incredibly carefully as we learn what he wants and as he learns about his surroundings and new companion.”
Chester is a baby animal exploring an environment and Dr. Haulena notes that we do expect he will get scratches and abrasions at times. “When he stranded he had one of his more serious wounds on his chin. Unfortunately, his chin is now prone to more abrasions and has more difficulty healing as a result. He does have a superficial abrasion healing there now which was from an attention-seeking interaction from a trainer at a window.”
He also notes that Chester is young and very closely attached to the people that cared for him so intensively for such a long time. Now he’s also getting to know Helen better. “It’s normal for dolphins and whales to give each other superficial wounds as they establish dominance and let each other know what is all right and what is not. In fact, Chester was found stranded with several old rake mark scars already.”
When you meet Chester, you may also notice his curved dorsal fin. Rehabilitated whales and dolphins can display a curved dorsal fin. While this is a natural condition of cetaceans in long-term care, and is not harmful to the animal, it does look different. Dr. Haulena explains, “During his weakest period, Chester had to be supported at the surface around-the-clock by staff and volunteers in special support slings for a long period of time during his rehabilitation. As a result, Chester’s fin started to fall to the side. Now, because he’s spending more time under water, playing and interacting with Helen, it’s beginning to straighten up.”
The Vancouver Aquarium Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, presented by Port Metro Vancouver and supported by Teekay Shipping, is a hospital for sick, injured or orphaned marine mammals. The Aquarium is a self-supporting, non-profit society and does not receive ongoing funds to provide around-the-clock care for its rescued and rehabilitated animals. You can learn more about the animals the Rescue Centre rehabilitates and make a donation to help out injured animals like Chester by donating today.