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Alaska rescue of baby beluga whale - SFGate -
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"Marine mammal specialists from across the country have descended on an Alaska aquarium to help care for a baby beluga whale that became separated from its mother shortly after birth. The male calf is under 24-hour care at the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward, being fed by a stomach tube while learning how to suckle from a bottle. "He's currently doing very well, swimming on his own and ... learning to take food from a bottle," said Tara Riemer Jones, the center's president and CEO. It's believed to be the first baby beluga rescue in the United States, at least since federal record keeping began in 1972, she said. Other attempts at rescue resulted in calf deaths or in one case, the calf being returned to its pod. It's such a rare event that specialists have been helping with the animal's care, including staff members from the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta, Shedd Aquarium in Chicago and SeaWorld in San Diego. The whale was estimated to be 2 days old when it was found near South Naknek, in Alaska's Bristol Bay, on June 18. Officials believe a storm probably separated the calf from its mother. Tim Lebling, the Alaska SeaLife Center's stranding coordinator, flew to South Naknek that afternoon to retrieve the calf. It was flown 90 minutes back to Seward in dry transport. Lebling said the calf was placed on an air mattress, and then covered with wet towels. He said it was touch-and-go, probably because of stress. "We thought he took his last breath at one point," Lebling said, but then he breathed again. Survival odds for an animal this age coming into a stranding program are low, said Brett Long, the husbandry director at the center. The calf is now about 5 feet long and weighs 115 pounds, up 5 pounds since his arrival. If the calf survives, he'll never see the open ocean again because there is no way for humans to teach him survival skills. The National Marine Fisheries Service will eventually decide where he will be placed." -
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