Beluga Updates!
March 8, 2018

Check here to learn more about the round-the-clock care provided to Tyonek while at the Alaska SeaLife Center.












It has been a long journey for Tyonek and we were happy to be a part of this young calf’s story. Tyonek is the first Cook Inlet beluga calf to ever be successfully rehabilitated. Learn more about how the Alaska SeaLife Center team worked to rehabilitate Tyonek here.


Learn more about Tyonek’s transition to his new home at SeaWorld San Antonio here.


One of Tyonek's favorite enrichment activities is playing with bubbles. Check out this video!


Check out this KTUU Channel 2 News story on Tyonek!


Tyonek is the first Cook Inlet beluga calf to ever be successfully rehabilitated. He was found stranded, high and dry on the beach in very poor condition. Six institutions from all across North America united to care for this little cetacean. He has recovered against the odds thanks to our staff here at ASLC and dedicated partners at Shedd AquariumMystic AquariumGeorgia AquariumSeaWorld, and Vancouver AquariumWhen Tyonek first arrived at the Center, September 30th he was 64 kilos and 162 cm long. Today he is 116 kilos and 180 cm long. We are ecstatic that Tyonek continues to grow and gain strength when just over four months ago he was found stranded, malnourished, and dehydrated on a beach. Amazing the things we can do when we work together.




Once NOAA Fisheries determined Tyonek was non-releasable and could not survive in the wild, the agency followed its formal procedure to place him at a permanent care facility in the United States. Based on a thorough review of the applications, NOAA Fisheries selected SeaWorld San Antonio as the location best suited for Tyonek to thrive because they have both adult females and young male calves that will be important for Tyonek’s social development. Read more about NOAA’s decision here.


We, at ASLC, along with our supporters and partners, have been awaiting NOAA's decision about Tyonek's future. Since he is the first stranded Cook Inlet beluga calf to ever be successfully rehabilitated, it was a long process to determine what would be best for this young calf. NOAA Fisheries has announced Tyonek is not a candidate for release due to his young age upon arrival, health conditions, and other factors. Read more about NOAA's decision and the next steps for Tyonek here.


As part of our environmental enrichment we play Cook Inlet beluga whale sounds for Tyonek twice a day in five minute intervals. Our animal caretakers notice that he is very curious about the sounds and even mimics the calls. This type of enrichment helps us assess how his vocalizations are progressing as well as his hearing. Watch this video to hear Tyonek's calls. 
We receive Cook Inlet beluga whale sounds from a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) based study. Learn more about the study here


The Alaska SeaLife Center is excited to introduce Beluga Chats! What does it take to care for a baby beluga? Don't miss this opportunity to chat with Alaska SeaLife Center husbandry or vet staff caring for Tyonek, the three-month-old beluga whale. Chats will be at 12:15 PM on December 26th, 28th, 29th, and 30th. For a limited time only. Participation is free with paid admission.


Similar to newborns in hospitals across the country, Tyonek had his hearing tested. Preliminary results do not indicate any significant problems and he appears to have hearing ability similar to belugas tested in Bristol Bay.


Click here to watch a Q&A session and bottle feed with Tyonek, the rescued Cook Inlet beluga calf.


While Tyonek's energy levels are on a positive trend, we still monitor him very closely as stranding is a traumatic experience that can cause unseen internal damage. Our team uses imaging (ultrasound, radiographs, and CT scans) to regularly monitor Tyonek's condition. For instance, we are able to track increase in blubber as he puts on weight as well as changes in his internal organs.


"When it comes to helping a terribly rare Cook Inlet beluga, every day is a victory.” Check out this Washington Post article to learn a bit more about Tyonek and hear from his caretakers here


We have been getting some wonderful support from our Facebook community regarding ASLC's efforts with Tyonek and we thank you! Our Wildlife Response efforts are made possible by visitors, members, donors, and the community. 
"We support your incredible efforts to save this calf! Kudos to your dedicated and hard working team. This is a round the clock effort. Incredibly proud of the work you are doing! Keep it up crew!" - Nancy C. 
To support Tyonek and our other Wildlife Response patients, donate here.


Tyonek is now in our outdoor pool. Only after slowly acclimating the beluga to colder water temperatures in our I.Sea.U unit, was our team able to transition him outside. He is handling the climate change well.


Tyonek is now exclusively on bottles! Initially, he was not strong enough to take in the necessary daily calories through just a bottle so we had to supplement his diet with tube feedings. Thanks to the efforts of our staff and partners, this little calf has recovered enough to successfully participate in all of his bottle feedings. Georgia AquariumMystic AquariumSeaWorldShedd AquariumVancouver Aquarium.


Marc Lester, from Alaska Dispatch News wrote this article about Tyonek, the Cook Inlet beluga calf here at ASLC. Read the story here.


Tyonek's rehabilitation has progressed enough that we are introducing him to our outdoor pool in short intervals. We want to slowly acclimate him to the cooler temperatures beluga's are accustomed to. For now, his outdoor time will vary from day to day.


Check out this video to learn more about how the beluga team assesses Tyonek's health! 


Check out this video to learn more about what goes in to caring for a stranded beluga calf. We could not do this without the help of our dedicated partners: Georgia Aquarium, Shedd Aquarium, SeaWorld, Mystic Aquarium, and Vancouver Aquarium. This little cetacean is still in our I.Sea.U and is currently not viewable to the public. We will keep you updated when this changes. Thank you for your patience and support!


BELUGA UPDATE! There are various tests and check-ups our staff regularly conducts on this little beluga calf to gauge his condition. One thing we do is collect thermal imagery from a FLIR camera to keep track of any sore muscles or other soft tissue injuries. In this particular image it looks like his only current “hot spot” is from his eye, which is normal. No other sources of heat are obvious which is good since it means no infections or injured muscles are in the pictured area.




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