Featured Image Credit: Alaska SeaLife Center
By Laura O’Brien
A baby beluga named Tyonek was rescued near the Alaskan village for which he was named in late September. He was in critical condition when rescuers took him in for treatment. The calf was treated for a serious case of pneumonia upon his arrival. He needed around the clock care, so at least one member of the team was in his pool for almost 24 hours a day. Over time, he regained his strength. Tyonek has begun to play and show signs of increasing endurance, such as diving deeper into his pool. Carrie Goertz, the director of animal health at the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward, even said that the young beluga gets “hangry” when he wants food.
Tyonek’s toddler-like behavior is actually a sign of improvement according to Goertz. She said, “in some respects, it’s a sign of progress, that he has enough energy to show a range of kinds of behaviors”. Tyonek has also been putting on weight and growing longer, both of which are good signs. By the end of December, he had gained a whopping 90 pounds.
Despite all his progress, Tyonek is still having some health issues. He has some trouble with regularity and gas, and his lungs and head still have some lingering problems. But, the calf is doing significantly better than he had been when he arrived at the Alaska SeaLife Center. Goertz that, “things are looking positive”.
Tyonek has been extremely fortunate so far to have been found and responded well to his treatments, but his condition upon rescue was not the only obstacle he had to overcome. The rarity of having a wild beluga at the center prompted additional research, and Goertz said that “he’s definitely provided a lot of insight into the Cook Inlet beluga population”.
Cook Inlet, the area where Tyonek was rescued, is extremely noisy; so a hearing test was performed to determine whether or not Tyonek could hear. Although there were concerns that the Cook Inlet belugas would be deaf due to all the noise, Tyonek’s hearing test result was positive. Researchers also performed a CT scan on the young beluga, and they have even been observing how much he eats. Experts have not decided whether or not to release the young beluga back into the wild. Releasing the beluga could be beneficial for the endangered Cook Inlet belugas, but his young age may be cited as a cause not to release him. Goertz said that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will make the final decision on his release.
Learn more from our sources, https://www.adn.com/alaska-news/wildlife/2018/01/05/this-rescued-alaska-beluga-calf-has-an-attitude-but-hes-giving-scientists-insights-into-an-endangered-whale-population/ here]