by Craig Weatherby
Beluga whales are a top attraction at the popular Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium in Tacoma, Washington, just south of Seattle.
But last fall, the zoo’s two belugas—Beethoven and Turner—fell seriously ill.
Turner passed away last September, but his half-brother, Beethoven, enjoyed a complete recovery. The Zoo staff is working to find a companion whale for him.
And we’re happy to report that Vital Choice Sockeye Salmon Oil played a role in Beethoven’s treatment program.
The veterinarians and whale-keepers at the Zoo considered the salmon oil a key element in the whale's nutrition during his recovery.
We spoke with Dr. Allison Case, who led the medical efforts to help Beethoven recover:
Vital Choices: Dr. Case, can you tell our readers about Beethoven and his late half-brother, Turner?
Dr. Case: Last August, it became clear to us, through the whales’ behaviors and our medical monitoring, that Beethoven and Turner were seriously ill.
Turner unfortunately succumbed to the illness in September. Efforts continued in the medical management of Beethoven to support him through this illness. Fortunately, Beethoven was less severely affected.
Because Beethoven wasn’t feeling well, he was not consuming his complete diet and was losing weight. It is important for a patient fighting illness to have complete nutritional support. To accomplish this, we not only hand-fed Beethoven whole fish, but also tube-fed him a liquid diet.
Salmon oil is an excellent supplement for increasing calories and fat in both the hand-fed and tube-fed diets.
We found Vital Choice through research by one of our vet staff miracle workers, Anna Snipes. She was impressed with your quality control, and your willingness to package the oil just as we needed it.
Vital Choices: I believe she worked with Jim Nelson at Vital Choice.
|About beluga whales|
Belugas range through the Arctic and North Pacific and are known for their white skin and the prominent “melon” that bulges from their small, rounded heads.
The whales are dark gray at birth but turn white when they reach adulthood at age five to six.
Male belugas range from 10 to 22 feet long and can weigh between 900 and 3,800 pounds. Beethoven is back to his optimal weight of 1,600 pounds. Adult females may be a bit shorter but their weights are similar.
Dr. Case: Yes, you’re right. Anna really had nothing but high praise for Jim and the whole experience with Vital Choice. We’re thankful that you stepped up in response to our needs.
Your salmon oil was certainly a key to the nutritional critical care formulation we were putting together for Beethoven.
Vital Choices: Did it help that Beethoven was used to the taste of salmon?
Dr. Case: Well, not really, because we used a feeding tube to give him the salmon oil, so taste wasn’t a big factor. But fish are a major part of these whales’ natural diets, so salmon oil offered an appropriate source of calories.
And it’s not just good for whales. I want to keep it on hand for any marine animals who might become debilitated or need critical care, including animal rescue work for the Fish & Wildlife Service.
Again, Anna was really impressed with the Vital Choice staff and your willingness to accommodate an urgent need, so we thank you for that.
Beethoven is now free of any clinical or behavioral signs of illness, and seems to be back to his normal lively self, which is a big relief.
Vital Choices: Thank you, Dr. Case. We’re glad we could help in any way, and happy to hear that Beethoven is doing so well.
|Beethoven’s Tacoma home|
Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium (www.pdza.org) is located on 29 acres overlooking Puget Sound inside beautiful, 700-acre Point Defiance Park.
Beethoven’s home tank is part of the zoo’s “Rocky Shores” exhibit, which replicates an area of the craggy coastline near Cape Flattery, Washington.
Rocky cliffs surround four main exhibit pools for harbor seals, walruses, sea otters, tufted puffins, and Beethoven, the beluga whale. Visitors can also view this exhibit below water.
Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium participates in a number of wildlife conservation projects in the United States and around the globe, most tied to the animals represented at PDZA, which concentrates on animals from countries bordering the Pacific Ocean.
For information, call (253) 591-5337