The care provided to patients at Canada’s leading marine mammal rescue facility has gone up another notch, as the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, presented by the Port of Vancouver, opens its new hospital building.
“This is something we’ve worked on for a long time,” said Dr. Martin Haulena, head veterinarian at the Vancouver Aquarium and director of the Rescue Centre. “Until now, we did animal procedures and surgeries in the “Med Shed,” which is a standard garden shed. We did terrific work there, but it was far from ideal.”
The Rescue Centre — a hospital for sick, injured or orphaned marine mammals — is the only one of its kind in Canada. The team rescues, rehabilitates and releases more than 100 animals each year; in 2016, they rescued more than 170 animals. For every patient, the goal is to treat, rehabilitate and return it to the wild as soon as possible. As well as harbour seal pups, the veterinary team provides medical treatment to sea otters, sea lions, sea turtles, elephant seals, whales, dolphins, and porpoises.
The new hospital facility includes an exam and surgical room equipped with a new endoscope and x-ray. The total budget for the facility was $544,000; it was raised entirely by private donations, with 342 donors supporting the project.
“We’re so grateful,” said Lindsaye Akhurst, manager of the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre. “It feels terrific to know the public supports our work. The new hospital is already making our efforts to rehabilitate these animals much easier.”
Today, vet and research staff worked in the new facility to fit seal pup Marshmallow Fu with a satellite-linked transmitter temporarily attached to her head with animal-safe glue. The tag will stay attached to her pelage — or coat — until it moults after six to nine months. Information about the seal’s location will be sent by satellite signal and displayed online, which will also be accessible to the public at vanaqua.org/tracking. Marshmallow Fu was rescued July 15, 2016, in Coal Harbour.
Akhurst said 2016 was a milestone year for the Rescue Centre. A few of the highlights included:
- A record number of seals released back to the wild: 135 to date with 16 seals on site still, for a probable total of 151 out of 171 seals rescued in 2016.
- A record number of seals arrived to the Rescue Centre on flights with Harbour Air: 125.
- The first rehabilitation and release of a green sea turtle rescued in Canada.
- A sea lion disentanglement trip recorded with virtual reality technology.
- Telemetry research: four seals and sea turtle Comber were fitted with satellite tags to collect data about their return to the ocean.
- The rehabilitation of Rialto the rescued sea otter pup, with many team members making trips to the Seattle Aquarium to help in his 24-hour care.
- A record 17,000 volunteer hours contributed to caring for patients in 2016, as well as the most volunteers ever and the largest number of volunteer roles.
- 34 tons (34,000 kilograms) of herring and 2,380,000 millilitres of formula fed to patients.
The Vancouver Aquarium Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, presented by the Port of Vancouver, is a hospital for sick, injured or orphaned marine mammals. The Rescue Centre rescues stranded marine mammals and rehabilitates them for release back into their natural habitat. www.vanaqua.org/mmr