Brent R. Whitaker; Joseph R. Geraci; Andy Stamper
National Aquarium in Baltimore, Baltimore, MD; Ontario Veterinary
College, Guelph, Ontario
On Thanksgiving Day, 1993, an orphaned pygmy sperm whale stranded in
New Jersey. She was rescued by the Brigantine Stranding Center and the next day was
air-lifted by the Coast Guard to the National Aquarium in Baltimore.
The whale was thin, ate very little, and showed signs of
gastrointestinal disease. She listed to one side, swam feebly, and was unable to dive more
than a few feet. Her condition seemed terminal and euthanasia was among the considered
alternatives. Examination showed her stomach was impacted with "squid-pens"
entwined with plastic. With the aid of endoscopy, and after repeated attempts, the following
materials were removed: a garbage bag, mylar balloon fragments, cellophane, and something
resembling a condom.
The whale made a startling recovery; her appearance, behavior, and
appetite improved. In thirteen weeks, she gained fifty kilograms and now weighs 144
kilograms. The National Aquarium plans to release the whale, concerned that again she will
not be able to distinguish plastic from food and with the hope that one day she will not be
faced with that choice.