SAN DIEGO (January 20, 1997) Six says after beaching off the coast of Marina Del Rey and arriving via truck at Sea World of California in near-comatose condition, the orphaned gray whale calf has a name. Dubbed "J.J." by her caretakers, the baby whale continues to buoy the spirits and hopes of the animal care staff with her continued weight gain and stable health. Her name is a gesture of respect for the dedication and hard work of the late Judi Jones. Jones was a registered nurse whose tireless efforts as director of operations for Friends of the Sea Lion, a marine mammal rescue center in Laguna Beach, were much appreciated by Sea World staff. Jones died January 13 at the age of 51. "Judi was one of our colleagues, and we all thought the world of her," said Sea Worlds General Curator, Jim Antrim. But todays 20-pound weight gain is not the sole indicator of the calfs hopeful prognosis. J.J. the whale is also showing signs of feeding on her own a suggestion that self-feeding may one day take the place of the laborious, time-intensive tube feedings. During one of last nights feedings, the motherless calf sucked nearly one-half gallon of the milk based formula from the tube on her own. This progress is a welcome relief to animal care workers, who, like exhausted new parents, have rearranged their lives and schedules to accommodate the needs of the hungry, 1,770-pound infant.
"Ive been feeling a lot like a tied mother whale myself, lately," said Animal Care Supervisor Bill Winhall. Winhall is one of the animal care staff members who spends much of the day chest-high in icy water, working with unweildly tubes and funnels to get two gallons of warm, milk-based formula into the cavernous stomach of the baby whale every three hours. J.J.s initial weight gain more than 80 pounds between January 11 and 15 was indicative of her originally dehydrated state. According to her veterinarians, todays more modest increase is a positive sign that J.J. is putting on muscle mass and blubber, as would any baby gray under normal circumstances. But J.J.s circumstances remain anything but normal, cared for as she is by dozens of surrogate mothers on the Sea World of California staff, instead of by a 37-ton, fully grown mother gray whale. "J.J. may be orphaned, but shes certainly not alone," said Antrim. As with other beached and stranded animals cared for at the park, Sea Worlds ultimate goal is the eventual reintroduction of the California Gray whale back into her native waters. Sea Worlds education Department provides daily updates through its toll-free information hotline, 1-800-23-SHAMU, round the clock seven days a week.
An animal care specialist at Sea World prepares the whale milk replacement formula fed every three hours to the orphaned baby gray whale. The calf is fed every two hours of the milk-based formula through a two-inch diameter tube inserted into her mouth. Veterinarians hope the whale will begin feeding on her own soon.
Adult female gray whales average 46 feet in length and weigh 35 tons. They consume 2,400 pounds of food daily, and it takes a 660-pound meal to fill their stomach.
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