More About the
Alaska SeaLife Center





The Alaska SeaLife Center (ASLC) is the only permanent rescue and rehabilitation facility in Alaska that can house both marine mammals and birds. Operating as a designated marine mammal "stranding center" within a marine research facility allows scientists to learn a great deal about these animals during the rehabilitation process.

When a sick or injured animal arrives at ASLC, it is placed in quarantine to isolate it from other animals at the Center. This minimizes the risk of exposing the Center's resident animals to disease. The animal is then assessed to identify any diseases and potential treatments. The Center has a fully equipped animal hospital and veterinary staff with a complement of tools to use for this job, including an x-ray machine with darkroom, surgery room, hematology (blood analysis) lab, and a clinical chemistry lab.

Data gathered from animals in rehab provides valuable information to scientists who study them. Researchers have an opportunity to establish baseline data for sick, injured, and juvenile animals, and learn more about parasites and diseases that may affect marine mammals. They also broaden their knowledge of blood and tissue chemistry. All of this information provides important references for analyzing samples collected from the wild.

After an animal has been assessed, treatment begins. Most marine mammals go through de-worming, and if they are dehydrated they are given additional fluids. If a bacterial infection is discovered, the animal may be given antibiotics. If x-rays reveal a broken bone, it may be set and splinted. Surgery may be required in the event of a serious injury. Sometimes an animal enters rehab that is considered in "critical" condition, and staff must monitor the animal under a 24-hour watch until it is stable. During the rehabilitation process, it is necessary to maintain very accurate records. Size, weight, temperature, overall appearance, diet, medications and even bowel movements are all recorded on a daily basis.

Once an animal is deemed healthy enough for release, it is given a final physical exam. Staff implant a microchip under the skin and attach a flipper tag, both of which can help scientists identify the animal if it is ever recaptured or found dead. The final step is to attach either a radio or satellite telemetry tag, so scientists may monitor the location of the animal. Radio and satellite tags attached to rehabilitated animals help scientist learn more about the behavior of animals in the wild, and also provide the scientists with a platform on which to test new tracking technology and evaluate and improve the success of rehabilitation efforts.