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Rescued false killer whale clings to life at Vancouver Aquarium

Ailing calf remains under 24-hour observation by aquarium staff
  Wikimedia Commons
False Killer Whale
Too weak to swim, whale is circulated through water in handheld sling.
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“We’ve done some initial diagnostic tests right now, and everything is coming back as we would expect for an animal of this age after a stranding.”

— Vancouver Aquarium veterinarian Dr. Justin Rosenberg

The survival of a rescued false killer remains in doubt after several nights at the Vancouver Aquarium. Found stranded on a beach near Tofino on Vancouver Island, the calf remains under 24-hour observation by two dozen aquarium staff.

With lacerations across its body, the month-old calf is still too weak to swim and aquarium staff is constantly circulating him through the water in a handheld sling. According to Vancouver Aquarium veterinarian Dr. Justin Rosenberg, it remains unclear as to why the animal is ailing. “We've done some initial diagnostic tests right now, and everything is coming back as we would expect for an animal of this age after a stranding,” Rosenberg said. “So we’re just doing the best that we can to still figure out exactly what’s going on,” he added.

The Vancouver Aquarium's marine biologists were only allowed to transport the rare animal with special permission from Canada's Department of Fisheries and Oceans. It's the first false killer whale they've encountered in the wild and are reaching out to the global scientific community for advice on how to care for it. Although there are captive false killer whales in Japan, few of the animals have been studied in their natural habitat.

Vancouver Park Board vice-chair Constance Barnes is worried the whale will spend a life in captivity if it survives. “There’s a lot of other animals out there that do not get rescued,” said Barnes. “We actually make the decision to euthanize.” The false killer whale resembles the true killer whale in size and shape, but its body is black with a grey belly. Like the true killer whale, the false killer whale is a member of the dolphin family.

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