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Porpoise Research


Helping Us Do Our Jobs Better

The release of the harbour porpoise (Phocoena phoceona) Levi in the fall of 2013 was the result of on-site veterinary expertise and over 4,000 hours of dedicated care logged by staff and volunteers. But we couldn’t have done it without the hands-on skills gained through previous work with whales and dolphins at the Aquarium. Jack and Daisy, who were rescued but deemed unreleasable by the federal government, paved the way for Levi’s successful return to B.C. waters by increasing our understanding of just what it takes to care for these small cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises). Levi’s reintroduction represents a huge step in our ability to handle, diagnose and treat other stranded cetaceans at our Marine Mammal Rescue Centre.

Levi released
Levi audio study

Working With Other Researchers

Cetaceans regularly use sound and echo to navigate (echolocation). They create a mental map of what their surroundings look like without relying on their eyesight. So it was integral that Levi’s hearing was intact before he was even considered for release back to the ocean. With damaged hearing and the inability to echolocate, he wouldn’t have been able to hunt fish or detect predators. A specialist from the National Marine Mammal Foundation tested Levi using standard research methods, and we were able to determine that his hearing ability gave him a good chance for survival in the wild.

A Porpoise With A Purpose

Levi’s release, after almost six months of intense rehabilitation, was the start of a new phase of harbour porpoise research. Before he was released, researchers fitted him with a satellite-linked transmitter that allowed them, and the general public, to watch online as he crisscrossed the Strait of Georgia. For over two months (the life of the transmitter battery), he gave us a glimpse into the life of an animal that has not been studied extensively off the coast of British Columbia. We were able to see where he travelled and how deep he dove, and that he appeared to be adjusting quite well to life back in the wild. These data, as well as the knowledge gained during Levi’s rehabilitation, are being shared with colleagues in the field and will contribute to an upcoming scientific publication of the causes of stranding in porpoises.

Levi swimming away

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Mammal Research

Your donation to the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre will help fund important research. Research will lead to a better understanding of marine mammals and the conservation measures necessary to protect them.

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Interested in learning more about how cetaceans at the Aquarium are contributing to research? View a list of our publications


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Did You Know?

Did You Know?

Some dolphins travel in supergroups of more than 300.
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