July 11, 2014 3:56 pm

False killer whale calf rescued near Tofino in critical condition

WATCH: It’s a race against time for the Vancouver Aquarium. They’re desperately working to save a false killer whale – a type of dolphin that’s rarely seen in BC waters. Linda Aylesworth reports.

A rare whale that arrived in Vancouver overnight after being rescued by a team from the Vancouver Aquarium is in critical condition.

The false killer whale calf was spotted Thursday morning on North Chesterman beach, just outside of Tofino, in visible distress and poor health.

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Vancouver Aquarium veterinarians from Marine Mammal Rescue Centre worked overnight to keep the whale calf alive.

“Now the hard work begins to save this false killer whale,” said Dr. Martin Haulena, Vancouver Aquarium head veterinarian who oversaw the rescue. “The transport went well but… there were some worrying dips in his heart rate and respiration last night.”

Haulena says they have started treatment and have conducted diagnostic tests on the whale.

The calf is male and is estimated to be four to six weeks old.

He is in poor condition with several lacerations and wounds along his body, likely from stranding and getting caught up on the rocks.

The calf can’t swim on his own, so veterinarians are using a specially designed floating sling that supports his weight.

Huelena says the calf’s teeth haven’t erupted which indicates he was still nursing from his mother.

There is a variety of reasons why the calf could get separated from its mother, according to Haulena, including mother’s inexperience, predation, weather or even boats.

“Historically, stranded cetaceans have had a low chance of survival (less than 10 per cent),” he says. “It’s always touch-and-go with young marine mammals who have become separated from their mothers, and rescuing a false killer whale is a new experience for us — very few veterinarians and other professionals around-the-world have experience rehabilitating stranded false killer whale calves.”

False killer whales are seldom seen along the B.C coast and are not related to the well-known killer whale, or orca, species.

It is an open ocean species found in the tropics in all oceans of the world.

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