As reported by Ray Molnar, Mystic Aquarium’s Senior Trainer of Cetaceans and Pinnipeds
December 5: After a long flight to Anchorage, Alaska and a 2.5 hour drive I finally made it to Seward, Alaska on November 25. Once I arrived I immediately went to the Alaska SeaLife Center (ASLC) to meet Tyonek and my coworkers for the next three weeks. I am honored to be part of this collaborative effort in caring for an endangered Cook Inlet beluga whale calf.
My first day was spent just learning my way around the Center and the I. Sea. U. I was able to meet up with my co-worker, Kathryn Justice, as well as staff from Georgia and Shedd Aquariums. The next full day of work, I quickly learned to make the formula and bottle feed Tyonek.
Also during my first few shifts, I was trained to conduct hydrophone recording sessions; which I will be responsible for the next three weeks. During these sessions we will be able to hear any vocalizations that Tyonek is making while he is exploring his habitat. Researchers also will be able to gather valuable data to learn more about beluga whale calves and the Cook Inlet population.
As I wrap up my first full week at the Alaska SeaLife Center, I have already learned so much about beluga whale calves. Tyonek continues to gain weight as he is eating well during bottle feeds. He interacts with environmental enrichment devises both while we are in and out of the water with him. He is also starting to explore his habitat and spend more time diving in the deep portion of his pool.
It has already been an amazing opportunity to work with colleagues -some of which I have worked with in the past at Mystic Aquarium- to care for Tyonek and help to save an amazing animal.
I am looking forward to seeing the milestones we are able to achieve over the next two weeks and how Tyonek continues to grow and develop.