J.J. the Gray Whale Marks One Month at Sea World with Weight Gain
SAN DIEGO (February 11, 1997) One month to the day after her arrival at Sea World of California (SWC) in a near-comatose state, the gray whale calf J.J. continues to amaze park veterinarians and animal care workers with her progress. In the 31 days shes been under the round-the-clock supervision of the parks animal care team, J.J. has grown 20 inches in length and gained 900 pounds at the rate of 1.2 pounds an hour. The whale, who at first had to be supported by a team of animal rescue specialists so she didnt sink to the bottom of her medical pool, is now navigating her temporary "home" with ease. She initiates contact with the animal care staff who enter or visit her pool, and she curiously investigates the various items which are placed in her pool, including kelp, a floating plastic spool and an air and water filled vinyl bag. Initially the animal rescue specialists had to feed J.J. with a stomach tube now, the infant whale sucks over two gallons of rich formula in less than two minutes every three or four hours. "No one had ever been in a situation where they were trying to nurse a baby gray," explained Dr. Jim McBain, park veterinarian. "After a series of attempts, the animal care staff developed a very serviceable nursing device which utilizes an insulated 3-gallon thermos and a series of tubes. J.J. will approach the animal care specialists who are kneeling by the side of her pool and take the tube into her mouth immediately." (more)
Because the whale has been consuming an increasingly large amount of the heavy cream, fish and powdered milk formula, animal care specialists have moved the food preparation operation to the otter nursery in the Rocky Point Preserve section of the park. Guests can observe the process daily at 1 p.m. J.J., who is named for the late Judi Jones, formerly the director of the animal rescue organization Friends of the Sea Lion in Laguna, has also started to peel. "Its normal for growing gray whale calves to slough large sheets of skin," said Dr. McBain. Sea World staff and marine mammal experts continue to monitor J.J.s growth and behavior. This represents the first time the scientific community has been able to observe a gray whale of J.J.s age 24 hours a day. The information being gathered may be of critical importance. As with all the other beached and stranded animals cared for at the park, Sea Worlds ultimate goal is to eventually reintroduce the California gray whale back into her native waters. In response to a flood of calls, Sea World's Education Department provides daily updates on the calf through its toll-free information hotline, 1-800-23-SHAMU, seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. PST. 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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