San Diego, Calif. (January 12, 1997) - The newborn gray whale calf that was transported to Sea World of California last night is consuming six liters of whale milk substitute every three hours.
"It is too early to know if the whale is stabilizing," said Sea World Veterinarian Dr. Jim McBain. "What we do know is that it seems to be gaining strength and responding to its treatment."
Severely dehydrated and hypoglycemic when it arrived at Sea World by truck yesterday, the whale was immediately given fluids, glucose to stabilize its blood sugar level and antibiotics. Sea World veterinarians and animal care specialists are feeding the calf, which apparently is a female, a milk substitute which closely approximates whale milk. The formula was developed by park veterinarians who were able to closely monitor the needs of newborn whales through Sea World's successful killer whale breeding program.
"The calf quickly realized that when it was being held by people, it got fed," McBain said. "At this point, it will swim directly to one of the animal care specialists, apparently demanding food." To feed the calf, the specialists employ a two-inch diameter tube into her mouth. They hold the tube in place in her mouth while she accepts the formula.
The whale is starting to exhibit sucking capabilities, and may soon graduate to a large bottle for its feedings. It is also alert, and negotiating its 40-foot by 40-foot holding pool without difficulty. Sea World veterinarians are monitoring the calf constantly, looking for any signs of infection or other health problems.
"It will be weeks or even months before we can say she's got a good prognosis," said Jim Antrim, Sea World's general curator. "We will continue to use all our resources to work toward our goal of rehabilitating and reintroducing the animal back into the wild."
An adult California gray whale can be as long as 55 feet and weigh as much as 37 tons, the equivalent of five African elephants. It will eat 2,400 pounds of food daily, and needs a 660-pound meal to fill its stomach.
More information about gray whales
More information about the Animal Rescue and Rehabilitation Program
SeaWorld/Busch Gardens Animal Information Database
www.seaworld.org / www.buschgardens.org
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