Click here to learn more.
Last month a 2-day-old beluga whale found stranded off the coast of Bristol Bay in Alaska died just weeks after the animal was rescued — despite marine experts’ best efforts to save the orphaned baby.
In May the first beluga whale born at the Georgia Aquarium lived less than a week.
And last year a pair of 2-month-old bottlenose dolphins at the National Aquarium in Baltimore died within days of each other.
These tragic stories are sadly not uncommon, begging the question: Does living or being born into a captive environment make it harder for infant marine mammals to survive?
“Marine mammals, in general, have very high infant mortality rates, whether they’re in wild or captive environments,” says Dr. Sam Dover, DVM, chief veterinarian and president of the Channel Islands Marine & Wildlife Institute, a nonprofit rescue organization. “For example, 50 percent of first-time bottlenose dolphin moms lose their babies in the wild.”
But the survival rate in captivity is much better, adds Dr. Michael Walsh, DVM, assistant director for aquatic animal health services at the University of Florida. “In the wild, no one can step in when things go wrong,” he says. “In managed environments, we can intervene when needed to help increase survival rates.”
But this hasn’t always been the case.
“Prior to the 1960s and 1970s, very few facilities had marine mammals in managed environments, “ says Dr. Walsh. “Therefore, the education level and experience of the experts dealing with the baby animals was extremely low, and many assumptions were made. As a result, the survival rates were also low.”
Over the past four decades, as the population of marine wildlife under human care has increased, there’s been a massive learning curve in the field.
“Today, we know enough to predict when things are going wrong,” says Dr. Walsh. “We have timetables for every step of the process, from when they start labor to how fast the calves should be moving. And we know when and how to step in to prevent or solve a potential problem.”
Like this article? Have a point of view to share? Let us know!
Thank you for subscribing to Petwire. Look for the latest newsletter each Wednesday.
Senior Draven Rodriguez reached a
compromise with his school about the
laser-cat yearbook portrait that went viral.
Firefighters used a tiny oxygen mask to
revive a family of hamsters who passed
out in their cages during a house…
In this funny viral video, a confused dog
refuses to go through an open doorway
because he thinks the door is closed.
Interactive games and doggie play dates
are a few ways to help keep your aging
pup feel and act as young as…
These lovable dogs are affectionate with
their families, good with children and wary
of strangers when they need to…
Dr. Patty Khuly thinks adopting a geriatric
cat or dog is the very best thing you can
do if you truly love animals.
A Belgian Malinois set a new world record
at the Purina Pro Plan Incredible Dog
Challenge National Finals this…
The gentle Persian, who's the most popular pedigreed cat in North America, is happiest when she’s gazing up at you.
If the video doesn't start playing momentarily,
please install the latest version of Flash.
Thank you for subscribing.