Small but mighty, harbour porpoise Daisy changed lives around her from the day of her rescue almost nine years ago. Just one month old when she stranded on August 26, 2008, Daisy taught our veterinary and animal care staff much about her elusive species and about the skills and techniques required for successful cetacean rescue. With heavy hearts, we share the news that Daisy passed away on Thursday surrounded by her favourite humans, some who were also on her initial rescue team.
Earlier this month, a change in her behavior lead to increased concern, monitoring, and action by the veterinary team. This week, following a downturn in her health, Daisy began receiving around-the-clock care from a world-class team lead by Dr. Martin Haulena, the head veterinarian at Vancouver Aquarium. To help with diagnosis, the team was joined by Dr. Marina Ivančić, a specialist from Chicago Zoological Society’s Brookfield Zoo, renowned for her work in advancing the practice of veterinary radiology in marine mammals.
Our Vancouver Aquarium family is deeply saddened at her passing, but we’ll never forget Daisy’s incredible legacy: the positive impact of her saved life is immeasurable. “Daisy helped change the way the scientific community approaches the rescue and care of harbour porpoises and other cetaceans in distress,” said Vancouver Aquarium head veterinarian Dr. Martin Haulena. “She’s also helped with improve the overall understanding of porpoise biology, bioacoustics, and behavior.”
The knowledge gained while rehabilitating Daisy at the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Mammal Rescue Centre in 2008 lead to the creation of a cetacean rescue protocol used here and at other facilities in the years since. In 2013, the protocol was also used in the rescue, rehabilitation, and then – for the first time in Canadian history – the release of adult harbor porpoise Levi. In 2014, rescue centre staff made Canadian history again with the successful rehabilitation of Chester, a false killer whale calf who stranded on Chesterman Beach near Tofino. And in 2015, the Aquarium’s porpoise rehabilitation program — an initiative that started with Daisy — was honoured with the prestigious Colonel D.G. Dailley Award from Canada’s Accredited Zoos and Aquariums (CAZA).
Most recently, Daisy took part in research for an international effort to save the vaquita porpoise, the rarest and most endangered cetacean on the planet, and a species closely related to her own. With only about 30 vaquita remaining in the world, a collaborative emergency action plan to keep the vaquita from vanishing is underway, and Daisy helped develop the technique that will be employed to find them.
An ambassador for her species, Daisy not only helped her fellow cetaceans, but also helped connect millions of Vancouver Aquarium visitors to harbour porpoises, their unique characteristics, and the threats they face in the wild, including capture as bycatch, underwater noise and disturbance, as well as environmental contamination in their prey species. Daisy also inspired visitors to help and make ocean and harbour porpoise-friendly choices, like purchasing Ocean Wise seafood.
“In her shy, gentle way, Daisy captivated the hearts of so many people … mine included,” added Dr. Haulena. “It’s always very difficult when we lose an animal. But as sad as we are by Daisy’s passing we are equally grateful for our time caring for and learning from her.”
Learn more about the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Mammal Rescue Centre – how we work to save stranded animals like Daisy as well as Levi and Chester, and how what we learn from them helps marine mammals in the wild.
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