On June 18th, a 110-pound newborn beluga calf was found stranded near the Diamond O Cannery in South Naknek, Alaska, after a storm swept over the sea. Rescuers quickly determined that the stranded baby whale had been orphaned.
Despite efforts to guide the beluga back to deeper waters, rescuers couldn't convince the two- or three-day-old whale to stay away from the shoreline. Three staffers from the Alaska SeaLife Center (ASLC), a marine rehabilitation centre, then brought the whale in, "the first of its kind to be rescued in U.S. waters," msnbc's Animal Tracks reports.
Marine mammal experts from the Shedd Aquarium, SeaWorld and the Georgia Aquarium teamed up to give the marine pup around-the-clock care at SeaLife Center. Even with such dedicated care, the whale is still in critical condition.
"The calf is swimming on his own, cooperating with feedings, and breathing regularly, which are all very positive signs. However, there are tremendous hurdles ahead. Because this animal is extremely young, it is at a very high risk of complications," said staff veterinarian Dr. Carrie Goertz in a press release.
Belugas typically need a two-year "training and nurturing" period with their mothers in the ocean in order to survive.
"This baby would not have survived in the wild, and it has a great deal to offer to all the people of the United States in terms of outreach and understanding about belugas," ASLC President and CEO Tara Reimer Jones told Seward City News.
Eventually, the young whale will be transferred to another facility where it can live alongside other captive belugas. Requirements mandate that the extremely social mammals not live alone in captivity.
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