June 29, 2012
On June 18, a newborn male beluga whale calf was found stranded near South Naknek, Alaska. Left without his mother after a storm, the calf was rescued by the Alaska SeaLife Center (ASLC).
Georgia Aquarium's Director of Animal Training Dennis Christen and Senior Animal Care & Training Specialist Erika Stuebing work with Alaska SeaLife Center team member to aid a beluga calf that was rescued in South Naknek.
The beluga whale is a conservation-dependent species, listed as “Near-Threatened” and "Critically Endangered" in Cook Inlet, Alaska and two areas of Canada. Because of this, Georgia Aquarium is deeply committed to the conservation of beluga whales around the world. Within 24 hours, the ASLC team was joined by Georgia Aquarium beluga whale experts Dennis Christen and Erika Stuebing, as well as other top-level teams from Shedd Aquarium and SeaWorld Parks.
As animal care is our top priority, this world-class community came together immediately in response to ASLC’s call for additional help. The dedicated team of professionals is made up of experts in marine mammal veterinary care and husbandry who have extensive experience with beluga whales. It is because of what we have learned from the incredible animals in our care that we are able to provide the expertise and assistance that this calf needs.
This is quite an unprecedented event as this instance is the first-known occurrence of a live-stranded beluga whale calf in the U.S. since the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972.
While the calf has an immature immune system, our teams remain cautiously optimistic during this time, and the calf seems to be progressing and remains under 24-hour observation. He is calm and responsive to his caregivers, swimming on his own, learning to successfully suckle from a specifically designed “bottle”, breathing regularly and navigating very well. The calf is currently being fed every two hours with a milk matrix created specifically for beluga calves, which contains all of the nutrients and calories the calf needs to grow and sustain an efficient amount of energy.
By studying and observing beluga whales in human care, Georgia Aquarium and our partners have been able to utilize their combined knowledge to care for this animal, including the creation of his formula. Georgia Aquarium takes tremendous pride in knowing that our team and the teams of our partners are on-site working around-the-clock to save this helpless calf. We will continue to provide updates when we can.
BELUGA CALF UPDATE (July 10, 2012):
The Alaska SeaLife Center (ASLC) is saddened to announce the loss of the rescued beluga calf found stranded following a storm in South Naknek, Alaska on June 18. Please visit Alaska SeaLife Center's Facebook page for a detailed update and to share your support for the aquarium community.
To learn more about Alaska Sea Life Center, please visit alaskasealife.org.