ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) — One year after a stranded baby beluga was rescued by Alaska Wildlife Troopers in shallow water, the team members who helped rescue and rehabilitate Tyonek the beluga calf are celebrating a year of growth in his new home.
According to the Alaska SeaLife Center, Tyonek, who was estimated to be about four weeks old when he was rescued, is now one year old, and showing significant signs of growth and health at his home in the SeaWorld San Antonio beluga whale pod.
Named after the village that's close to where he was found on a beach on the western shore of Cook Inlet, Tyonek has increased from 5'3" long and 140 pounds to nearly 400 pounds and 6'10", is described as "right on track" in hitting growth and health milestones.
Tyonek has been eating herring and capelin in addition to his daily bottle-fed meals. SeaLife Center staff, with help from partner aquariums from around the country, provided around the clock care to help Tyonek survive. It was determined in January that he couldn't be returned to the wild, because he was socially and nutritionally dependent on humans.
"Tyonek’s successful rehabilitation and growth is the result of an amazing team effort involving federal authorities, numerous organizations, and rescue and recovery experts in multiple states,” said SeaWorld Chief Zoological Officer Dr. Chris Dold.
SeaWorld San Antonio was chosen by the NOAA Fisheries, which has jurisdiction over the endangered species. Prior to Tyonek's arrival, SeaWorld San Antonia was home to nine belugas, including adult females and young males to provide companionship.
"We see Tyonek mimicking other whales’ behaviors and playing with toys,” said Dr. Steve Osborn, senior veterinarian at SeaWorld San Antonio. “Tyonek is also swimming and playing, sitting face-to-face, bumping and pushing up against other belugas, all positive signs as he continues to grow and learn.”