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 Signing Up
for the Petwire newsletter, sending you all the pet news each week directly to your inbox.
Get the latest pet news, tips, tricks, and expert advice sent right to your inbox!
A baby squirrel who fell 75 feet from her nest is being nursed back to health at a rehabilitation center in…
Jan Jeffries, Jr., was working at a miserable jobsite when he encountered a dog who would change his life forever.
With their adorable matching outfits, best friends Zoey and Jasper have quickly become the new darlings of the…
With Easter on our minds, we combed our database of rabbits names to find out the 10 most popular monikers of 2013.
Dentistry used to be the outcast of the veterinary world. Now many vets dedicate tons of time to oral care for…
Our friends at JeanKnowsCars.com reveal cars that are great for pet owners, from versatile minivans to rugged SUVs.
With Easter coming up this weekend, we jumped at the opportunity to celebrate the holiday's most iconic species.
The Abyssinian, who wears a beautiful ticked coat, is an intelligent and athletic feline who stays in constant…
If the video doesn't start playing momentarily,
please install the latest version of Flash.