NEW BRUNSWICK, Ca. – A team of marine mammal health experts from Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium joined researchers from the Vancouver Aquarium and the University of Montreal in the successful saving and release of a stranded, young beluga whale in Canada on Thursday.
Earlier this month, researchers noticed that the approximately five-foot-long male beluga was alone in the Nepisiguit River in New Brunswick. Since it’s migration season, rescuers believed the whale may have taken a wrong turn and was separated from his herd, unable to make it back to the ocean.
The effort to save the whale was “a bold plan, and not without some risk,” said Shedd Aquarium Executive Vice President of Animals, Tim Binder.
The mission included a 20-person team that helped coax the whale into a net, whereupon rescuers were then able to transfer him onto a truck and then to the airport.
Following a 45-minute flight, rescuers were able to reunite the beluga whale with the rest of its critically endangered population in the St. Lawrence Estuary near Quebec.
“We believed this animal to be a member of the endangered population, which means every individual is significant to the group’s overall sustainability and survival, so we knew we had to respond quickly by lending our expertise and resources on the ground,” said Binder.
Researchers will continue to monitor the whale and the rest of the St. Lawrence beluga population.