Beached Orca Freed; Guardian Watchmen Explains Rescue

7/23/2015

(Photo Credit: Whale Point Facebook)

*Updated

A beached orca off the coast of B.C has been freed after spending over eight hours on a rock.

The orca was stranded in Squalley Channel near Hartley Bay. Researchers had been surveying a pod of orca whales when they noticed one was missing.

Guardian Watchmen of Gitga'at Nation Marven Robinson was at the scene during the rescue, and says the whale was very tense during the ordeal.

"You know it was hard to believe, the whale was making vocalization in the air because it wasn't in the water. It's something that I never wanted to witness, it was really sad. We got off the beach with herman to keep it cool. It actually acknowledged Hermann (Meuter) when he put some cloth on it.
It looked really bad, we got to see the killer whale hang around the rocks, so they definitely knew something was wrong. So they were definitely missing that one clan member."

Robinson says himself and members of Whale Point and World Wild Fund grabbed buckets of water to keep the whale cool as well as covered it with paper.

"We didn't know what to expect. It was a waiting game. When I was looking at the whale, you can see some kind of mucous coming out of the blow hole"

Vancouver Aquarium's Head Veterinarian Dr. Martin Haulena says in general it's not a good thing, but the rescuers did the right thing in those circumstances.

"In general it's not a good thing at all. These animals were designed to be in the water and never really come up on land. You know the people involved have done a good job, they did the right thing. They tried to keep the animal cool, and certainly these guys are very well insulated, they're supposed to be in the water. They did a good job at that, and they also tried to protect the skin from getting dry and crack, and that's really good. I think it's a good sign, that the animal was able to move away on it's own accord."

Haulena also warned about the implications of a cetacean being out of water for that length of time.

"To be out of the water for any significant amount of time, and on a very rocky hard substrate like this whale has been pictured. There are a variety of things that happen quite quickly. The first thing is severe muscle necrosis. These guys were not designed to bear their own weight, so that those muscles are not loadbearing, start to bear that weight, and on a rock, circulation becomes compromised very quickly, and that muscle start to die."

Haulena explained that this type of occurrence in orca whales is very rare, and there is cause for concern for the animal going forward.