Updated on July 11: We're sad to report the baby beluga died Monday morning. "We are deeply saddened by the loss of this beluga calf," the Center's president and chief executive, Tara Riemer Jones, said in a statement.
Original story: They say it takes a village to raise a child, but what about an orphaned baby beluga? This 112-pound newborn whale calf was found without its mom in South Naknek, Alaska on June 18 just after a large storm swept over the open sea, according to a press release from the Alaska SeaLife Center. Rescuers tried to guide the stranded beluga back to deeper waters, but the disoriented infant kept returning to the shoreline, wandering further away from home. Three of the Center's staffers fetched the homesick two or three day old calf, the first of its kind to be rescued in U.S. waters.
Keeping the calf alive has been a group effort, with marine mammal experts from the Shedd Aquarium, SeaWorld and the Georgia Aquarium pitching in to give the beluga infant the care (and comfort) he needs around-the-clock. And life without mom isn't so easy—the marine pup is still in critical condition, despite some signs that he's getting used to his new home away from sea.
“The calf is swimming on his own, cooperating with feedings, and breathing regularly, which are all very positive signs. However, there are tremendous hurdles ahead. Because this animal is extremely young, it is at a very high risk of complications,” said staff veterinarian Dr. Carrie Goertz in a press release last week.
For now, the stranded baby beluga will remain housed at the SeaLife Center, a marine rehabilitation center in Alaska. Let's hope mom isn't out there searching the sea for her little one.