Update from Alaska: The male beluga calf rescued Sept. 30 near Trading Bay in Western Cook Inlet is still receiving 24/7 care at the Alaska SeaLife Center. He is fighting to get better – it’s still a long road to recovery– but he is in the expert hands of veterinarians and marine mammal specialists from accredited aquariums across North America. The team is now monitoring the beluga’s respiration rate by counting breaths during five minute intervals. This is important in order to record his condition and see how well he is progressing.
Vancouver Aquarium marine mammal curator Brian Sheehan helped provide intensive care for the male beluga calf at Alaska SeaLife Center when he first arrived. Experts from Vancouver Aquarium, Georgia Aquarium, Shedd Aquarium, Mystic Aquarium, and Sea World worked in shifts around the clock to provide intensive care to the calf.
Originally, suckling from a tube was the most effective method for the young beluga to get the nutrients he needed but he has now gained enough strength to hold proper suction on a bottle.
Between frequent feeding, the care team spends time playing with the calf to make sure he doesn’t associate all humans with veterinary procedures. The baby beluga swims on his back, offering his belly up while staff play with him – which is a very positive sign.
After he was found stranded alone the calf was transported to the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward, under a permit by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Office (NOAA), for 24-hour critical care. Estimated at two to four weeks old, the calf is a member of the endangered Cook Inlet beluga whale population, which consists of only about 340 individuals.
The Vancouver Aquarium Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, an Ocean Wise initiative, is a hospital for sick, injured or orphaned marine mammals, and is the only one of its kind in Canada. The Centre rescues, rehabilitates and releases more than 100 animals each year; to date in 2017, the Centre has rescued almost 200 animals. For every patient, the goal is to treat, rehabilitate and return it to the wild as soon as possible. The veterinary team provides medical treatment to harbour seals, sea otters, sea lions, sea turtles, elephant seals, whales, dolphins, and porpoises.
The non-for-profit Marine Mammal Rescue Centre does not receive ongoing funds to provide around-the-clock care for its rescued and rehabilitated animals. To make a contribution to the Rescue Centre, please visit www.vanaqua.org/donate.