Animal death

Orphaned beluga dies at Alaska aquarium

July 11, 2012 at 3:35 PM ET

Alaska SeaLife Center /
The baby calf is the first beluga whale to be housed at the Alaska SeaLife Center, according to a press release from the Center.

The orphaned baby beluga found stranded from his mother in South Naknek, Alaska, died in the early hours of Monday morning. A team of marine mammal experts were giving the newborn male constant care, but the beluga's condition significantly worsened late Sunday evening until he passed away just after midnight.

Although the stranded beluga survived for less than a month without his mother at the Alaska SeaLife Center, he never would've made it as long as he did without the round-the-clock attention he received, officials at the Center said in a press release.

"We are deeply saddened by the loss of this beluga calf," Tara Riemer Jones, president and CEO of the Alaska SeaLife Center, said in the statement. "But we are incredibly proud of the care that the multi-institution animal and veterinary team provided."

ZooBorns /
There are five distinct stocks of beluga whales in Alaska, and this baby calf is from a population that appears to be growing, according to the press release.

The beluga was thought to be just 2 days old when fishermen found him after a storm swept over the ocean, most likely separating mother and infant. The 5-foot-long baby whale is the first known beluga calf to be rescued live in the U.S. since the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972, according to the SeaLife Center.

"There is more we will continue to learn about beluga whales as a result of this loss that will ultimately benefit beluga whales in the marine mammal community and in the wild," Jones said in the press release.

Danika Fears is a TODAY.com intern who was disheartened to see this little guy go. Now she wants to go home and call her own mother.

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