For the veterinary and marine mammal teams at the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre, this has been a rollercoaster week, as they work day and night to save the life of beluga Aurora.
Since she was moved into the medical pool for intensive care last Thursday, the 30-year-old whale has been under 24-hour monitoring, and receiving fluids and medicine every three hours, a procedure that requires 16 to 18 people each time.
Despite the efforts though, head veterinarian Dr. Martin Haulena says the outcome was looking grim yesterday evening, when Aurora’s already-compromised gastrointestinal tract started to fail completely. Even as the overnight shift continued to care for her in driving rain and wind, he began to prepare for the worst.
Late last night though, test results arrived from the necropsy of Qila — the beluga who died Nov. 16 — providing new clues about Aurora’s illness. Haulena and the team began a new therapeutic strategy targeting her gastrointestinal tract. On Friday, Aurora seemed much better: playing with enrichment items and seeking scratches and rubs from her trainers.
“We haven’t seen these kinds of behaviours from her in almost two weeks,” said Haulena. Still, he cautions that she has a long way to go, and the team still faces challenges getting her body condition back to where it should be, since she hasn’t taken in adequate calories in the same length of time.
The warm messages and beautiful stories shared by people who have connected with belugas at the Vancouver Aquarium over the years are helping our team get through this trying time. We would love to hear them all and encourage you to share your own story by commenting on this Aquablog. We are thankful for all the positive thoughts being sent our way.