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Rescued Baby Whale

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The Rescue

On July 10, 2014, Marine Mammal Rescue Centre staff were alerted to a young false killer whale who was thrashing in the surf near Tofino’s North Chesterman beach.

As Canada’s only team of professional rescue staff readily available to save stranded cetaceans, Marine Mammal Rescue Centre staff were brought in from Vancouver to save the distressed false killer whale. The Rescue Centre’s team, led by Aquarium head veterinarian Dr. Martin Haulena, worked around-the-clock to provide critical care to the distressed cetacean. The team was able to provide this immediate care due to its 50+ years of marine mammal rescue experience.

Upon arrival, Rescue Centre staff immediately began administering emergency therapy. Upon approval from Fisheries and Oceans Canada, they began to transport the young male to the Rescue Centre in Vancouver.

False killer whales (Pseudorca crassidens), distinct from the killer whale (Orcinus orca), are a rare species in British Columbia and are very rarely sighted. This is the first time our team has encountered this species and is reaching out to colleagues around the world, although very few veterinarians and other professionals have experience rehabilitating stranded false killer whale calves.

Rescue of Baby Whale
Around the Clock Care

Around-The-Clock Care

The whale was estimated to be less than a month old at the time of rescue, weighing under 70 kg. There were several lacerations along his body, likely caused by the stranding. Rescue Centre staff and volunteers worked around the clock to save this youngster – he was too weak to swim on his own and needed to be supported in the pool using a specially designed sling. In addition to food and medication, the team used a wide array of medical equipment to treat the calf – including ultrasound and x-rays. There were at least three staff working on the calf at all times, though usually it’s around five. It took 10 staff to transport him from Tofino to the Rescue Centre. *

*Chester was deamed non-releasable by Fisheries and Oceans Canada in 2015 and currently resides at the Vancouver Aquarium.

It is very expensive to rehabilitate these animals – costs are more than $400 per day.

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An Incredible Team

The Vancouver Aquarium’s Marine Mammal Rescue Centre is the only such organization of its kind in Canada. At a moment’s notice, the team is prepared to rush to the aid of stranded marine mammals like the false killer whale calf currently in its care. It is only because of 50+ years of marine mammal rescue experience, and the experience the team has gained with cetaceans at the Vancouver Aquarium that it is able to provide this type of immediate care.

Dr. Martin Haulena, the Aquarium’s head veterinarian, has also pioneered a new technique for sedating marine mammals in order to disentangle them from packing materials, abandoned fishing gear and netting. Since 2013l, the team has gone on repeated trips to disentangle sea lions, successfully treating and releasing a number of them.

The Aquarium and the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre are self-supporting organizations that do not receive ongoing funds for rescues such as these.

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An Incredible Team
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