: Beluga calf :
Species: Beluga Whale (Delphinapterus leucas)
  Narrative

6-18-12: A male beluga calf was found stranded in South Naknek. The animal repeatedly returned to shore after being encouraged to return to the open ocean. It was picked up after rescuers called the Alaska SeaLife Center, who received authorization from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to attempt a rescue. Thank you to Grant Aviation for their flexibility and outstanding customer service in order to transport the calf in an efficient and timely manner.

6-20-12: A world-class animal care team has come together from three accredited US facilities to facilitate 24 hour care of the beluga calf at the ASLC. The dedicated team of professionals is made up of experts in marine mammal veterinary care and husbandry who have extensive experience with beluga whales.

6-21-12: As the beluga calf’s health is the primary focus of the ASLC, he will remain un-named for the time being.

6-22-12: So far, the beluga calf has not been receptive to bottle feeding attempts. He is being tube fed until he begins to suckle on his own. The calf is receiving a nutritious milk matrix formula that is specially designed for beluga calves.

6-23-12: Belugas are naturally social animals, usually found travelling in pods of 3-10. The calf has spent a lot of the day seeking tactile interactions with his caretakers and rubbing on lines that have been provided for this purpose. Multiple caretakers spend time in his pool throughout the day and night in order to facilitate his social needs.

6-24-12: Although the formula he is receiving is the best known replacement for his mother’s milk, it’s impossible to create an exact replication. The calf is having some trouble digesting the milk formula, resulting in uncomfortable gas and sometimes straining to defecate. He is being treated with medications that are meant to alleviate this discomfort.

6-26-12: The calf has been gaining weight steadily since his admit to the ASLC. This is an indication that his nutritional needs are being met in order to grow and sustain an efficient amount of energy.

6-28-12: Regular bottle feeding attempts have been made throughout the past week. This morning the calf appears to be making some progress, and has begun to attempt to suckle. He hasn’t quite got the hang of it yet, but this is the first step toward getting him to bottle feed.

6-30-12: Over the past few days, there have been some setbacks in regards to the calf's GI system, resulting in a slight loss of weight. His digestion has improved since then, and he seems to be getting back on track.

7-2-12: Today marks the two week point since the beluga calf's admit to the ASLC's rehabilitation center! He's been spending a lot of time seeking attention from his caretakers today - he loves to be rubbed all over and swim in between people's legs!

7-4-12: Although the calf has stabilized since having digestive troubles, he is still highly susceptible to complications. For this reason, staff remains guarded yet optimistic.

7-5-12: The calf's suckling has been progressing quite a bit lately . Yesterday he got 1/3 of his total daily formula from the bottle. He is still being tube fed regularly in order to meet his caloric needs.

7-7-12: Salmon oil is incrementally being added to the calf's formula. This will give his formula a higher calorie content, as well as help him adjust to a more "fishy" diet. Adult belugas are opportunistic eaters, dining on a variety of fishes and crustaceans.

7-9-12: We are saddened to announce the passing of the beluga calf. While the calf’s rehabilitation faced a number of obstacles, it became evident yesterday that the young whale’s condition continued to decline. The rehabilitation team became more concerned as the evening progressed, but despite all efforts the calf passed away shortly after midnight. A full necropsy will be performed by ASLC veterinary staff later today. It is likely further tests will be conducted over the coming months, and a cause of death may never be known.

 



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