Lessons Learned During Rehabilitation of the Pygmy Sperm Whale, Kogia breviceps
IAAAM Archive
Charles A. Manire1; Howard L. Rhinehart1; Petra Cunningham-Smith1; Nélio B. Barros2
1Dolphin and Whale Hospital and 2Marine Mammal Stranding Investigations Program, Mote Marine Laboratory, Sarasota, FL, USA


Although the pygmy sperm whale, Kogia breviceps, is the second most common species to strand in the southeastern United States, releases of rehabilitated animals are extremely rare. This species has a poor record of survival after stranding, although recent successes have extended survival in rehabilitation to over one year. The staff and volunteers of the Dolphin and Whale Hospital at Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium have made a number of attempts to save pygmy sperm whales and much has been learned during those attempts. Knowledge has been gained in the areas of basic biology and behavior of these animals, as well as the rearing of orphans and veterinary care. For example, one adult male produced beaks from over 20 species (10 families) of deep water squid when vomiting was induced in weeks 1 and 2 of rehabilitation, and also when the animal died, forty days later, indicating a much longer gastric retention period of squid beaks than suggested in the literature. This same animal was successfully treated for 12 different medical conditions, ranging from gastric stasis to acute kidney failure, but eventually died after 40 days in captivity. Long-term rehabilitation of orphan calves has produced data on growth rates and age at which they begin to take solid food. In general, pygmy sperm whales have many gastrointestinal problems and cardiomyopathy is often diagnosed in older individuals. These whales seems to be sensitive to a variety of different medications commonly used during rehabilitation such as acid blockers and atropine as well as fluoroquinolone and cephalosporin antibiotics, and care must be exercised when any new medication is begun. In addition, this species seems to be more susceptible to over-medicating than do other species of cetaceans.


This work has been supported through private donations by various individuals. The authors wish to thank all of the Animal Care staff, volunteers, and college interns who so freely donate their time and efforts to make the rehabilitation work of the Dolphin and Whale Hospital possible.

Speaker Information
(click the speaker's name to view other papers and abstracts submitted by this speaker)

Charles A. Manire
Dolphin and Whale Hospital, Mote Marine Laboratory
Sarasota, FL, USA