A false killer whale calf that was rescued at a beach near Tofino last summer is off to rehab.
The big mammal named Chester has been getting critical care treatment with the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Mammal Rescue Centre at a special recovery pool through the help of Port Metro Vancouver.
“I’m very happy with his progress,” said Dr. Martin Haulena, head veterinarian at the Vancouver Aquarium. “He’s gained a lot of strength, a lot of mobility and he’s quite a strong swimmer.”
Chester’s transfer was “completely boring,” which is exactly what staff had hoped for, said Haulena.
Although he had outgrown his previous pool, Haulena said the whale calf was hesitant at first when placed in its new pool, the volume of which is about six times greater.
“He’s spending a lot of time exploring and was a little tentative at first,” he said. “He didn’t want to use the whole pool but he’s slowly but surely using more and more of it now.”
The larger pool allows the young whale to swim faster and dive deeper— important activities for its muscle development, said Haulena.
Staff can also control the water temperature easier, which makes for a more comfortable habitat for a false killer whale, a species that requires slightly warmer temperatures than that of B.C. waters at this time of year.
Found stranded on a Tofino beach in July, Chester was underweight, dehydrated and near death when aquarium staff rescued the young calf.
At the time, Chester was estimated to be between four and six weeks old, a developmental stage when whale calves rely entirely on their mothers for food and care.
Although Chester’s chance of survival was initially estimated at just 10 per cent, the young whale surprised aquarium staff when he responded well to treatment.
No other false killed whale that has stranded has ever survived after being rescued, said Haulena.
Chester will continue its round-the-clock recovery at the new aquarium habitat, he said.