As reported by Carey Richard, Mystic Aquarium’s Supervisor of Cetaceans and Pinnipeds
October 17, 2017: With any sort of rehabilitation there are peaks and valleys. The calf started to show some signs of colic early this week prompting a quick response from the veterinarian team and changes to his regime. As his body gets used to the formula that we are feeding him to ensure that he is receiving the nutrition and medications that he needs to survive, the vet team anticipated some changes in the calf’s digestive processes. After a few days of apparent discomfort, his activity levels increased and he returned to interacting with staff and environmental enrichment devices. He has also started to find his voice a little bit more, offering different vocalizations as he navigates his surroundings and interacts with the staff!
October 19, 2017: As the week draws to its close, so too does my time at the Alaska SeaLife Center. While I work with beluga whales every day at the aquarium, being able to learn from this little one has been an experience nothing short of amazing. Perhaps the most rewarding experience for me has been to work with an animal from an endangered stock of beluga whales and to see first-hand Mystic Aquarium’s mission in action. That mission is to inspire people to protect our ocean planet through conservation, education, and research. As the Alaska SeaLife Center staff works to save this beluga calf’s life they are learning so much about a group of animals who are dangerously close to becoming extinct. This population has been declining rapidly over the last 10 years with an estimated number of 328 individuals left in Cook Inlet.
I am a firm believer that people protect what they care about. Conservation is always prominent in our programs. Trainers teach our guests about the plight of beluga whales and what they can do in their every day life to ensure that they will be around for a long time to come. While I’ve always felt confident in my ability to convey the importance of conservation in action, I have now been fortunate enough to have worked with an animal from the exact group of animals that we feature during our education efforts each and every day. Mystic Aquarium, along with our colleagues at the Alaska SeaLife Center, SeaWorld, Georgia Aquarium, Shedd Aquarium, and Vancouver Aquarium will continue to advocate for animals and to ensure that guests who come to our facilities leave with a better understanding that they have a pivotal impact on the future of our ocean planet.
October 20, 2017: I’ve packed up my belongings at Dr. Carrie’s house and had my last dinner with colleagues. While I am so excited to see my 5-year old son, Owen and my husband after over 3 weeks of travel, leaving Alaska is bittersweet. I have been so fortunate to have been a part of this effort and look forward to passing the torch to Nicole O’Donnell, Senior Trainer of Cetaceans and Pinnipeds at Mystic Aquarium who arrived today to take my place in the rotation. We were able to spend some time with the calf and I was able to brief her on the ins and outs of the daily routine. Nicole is an asset to our team at Mystic Aquarium and I know she will be one here as well. I look forward to reading Nicole’s blogs and enjoying her Alaskan experience through them!
As I drive the 2 hours back to Anchorage for my departure, I am in awe of this whole experience. From the beautiful landscape, to the wild animals I would see just looking out into the harbor each day, to spending over 8 hours a day for 15 days straight with an amazing beluga calf and team of individuals, I can’t help but be emotional and grateful for my time in Alaska.