Let the Raffi puns begin: the Alaska SeaLife Center, located in the city of Seward on Alaska's Kenai Peninsula, said on Wednesday that it had adopted its first ever baby beluga whale, a male estimated at only a few days old.
According to the SeaLife Center, the calf was spotted near the village of Naknek, located on Alaska's west coast in the famous Bristol Bay region. The whale was seen several times near a cannery in the community, with no other whales nearby, unusual for such a young calf.
Upon being notified of the calf and getting approval from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, employees of the SeaLife Center on Monday mounted a rescue of the 5-foot-long, 110-pound whale, with help from Grant Aviation, which flew a nine-passenger aircraft to the village and back to accommodate the effort.
According to Tara Riemer Jones, CEO and President of the Alaska SeaLife Center, the rescue made for high tension, given the delicacy of getting the beluga from Naknek to Seward.
"Transporting a cetacean is very challenging," Jones said. "They performed a physical exam in Naknek, but we were on pins and needles until they got here."
The SeaLife Center is a marine research institution that is also open to the public. It has a tank capable of accommodating belugas, but this is the first time a beluga has ever been rescued and brought to the center. For now, the whale is in a smaller tank while veterinarians monitor its progress. Beluga whales typically stay with their mothers for two years, so having such a young whale means there's a strong chance of health problems arising.
Read more about the SeaLife Center's baby beluga, here.