Two members of SeaWorld’s San Diego’s animal rescue team and marine mammal experts from four aquariums are in Alaska Friday helping save a rescued beluga whale that faces slim odds of survival.
Dr. Todd Schmitt, SeaWorld’s senior veterinarian, and Eric Otjen, assistant curator of mammals, are part of a team providing around-the-clock care to the orphaned calf at the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward.
The calf, estimated at four weeks old and just over 5 feet long, was found in distress last Saturday near Trading Bay in the Western Cook Inlet.
Representatives from SeaWorld San Diego, the Georgia Aquarium, Vancouver Aquarium, Shedd Aquarium in Chicago and Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut responded to help because the species is critically endangered, with an estimated 328 remaining in the wild.
“It’s truly a privilege to be part of such a passionate group of animal care specialists with the singular goal of trying to save this young beluga’s life,” Schmitt said.
SeaWorld and some of the other organizations involved in the effort operate marine mammal rescue centers or animal response teams.
The veterinarians and marine mammal husbandry experts from SeaWorld and the other aquariums are in the water taking shifts to care for the calf. The first days after a rescue are considered the most critical time.
“To be able to have our expert colleagues assist us with this critically endangered beluga calf is a true testament to the marine mammal community’s commitment to caring for and preserving wild cetacean populations,” said Tara Riemer, Alaska SeaLife Center’s president and CEO. “To witness everyone come together for this very young calf is heartwarming as he is receiving the best 24-hour care from experts across North America.”
Despite all the help, the experts said the 142-pound calf has just a 10 percent chance of survival, because of a high risk of complications setting in with a young calf.
–City News Service
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