The Vancouver Aquarium has announced today that Chester, the ‘false killer whale’ rescued near Tofino three years ago has died.
The large mammal had less than a 10 per cent chance of making it when he was first discovered stranded on Chesterman Beach in July 2014. Not only did Chester live through his transport to the aquarium, but also became a beloved member of their aquatic family, according to a press release from B.C.’s largest marine museum.
“Spending these past three and half years with Chester has had a profound impact on the entire Vancouver Aquarium family, from employees and volunteers, to our members and visitors,” said Brian Sheehan, Vancouver Aquarium curator of marine mammals. “Chester connected with more than four million people during his time with us, sharing his joy and curiosity with every person he encountered. We’ve been incredibly lucky to love him and to learn from him.”
Officials say his health had been compromised since first arriving and he continued to be a “health-challenged animal” during the rehabilitation process, despite looking well earlier in the week.
That had all changed by Wednesday afternoon however, when Chester’s behaviour is said to have changed. He was put into the aquarium’s intensive care unit Wednesday and Thursday and passed away early Friday morning.
“We know that stranded animals, possibly because of injuries sustained during stranding, do have incidences of renal failure later on. That is something we’ll be looking at during the necropsy,” said head veterinarian Dr. Martin Haulena, who hopes to learn more today during the post-mortem exam.
The Vancouver Aquarium says very little is known about false killer whales (Pseudorca crassidens).
Despite having “whale” in their name, the species is actually part of the dolphin family.
Chester was estimated to have been about one month old when he was found on Chesterman Beach, in extremely poor condition with several lacerations and wounds along his body.
He was transferred to the rescue centre where he received more than 10,000 hours of veterinary treatment, rehabilitation and care, and became the first false killer whale calf to survive stranding in Canada.
The aquarium says due to his young age, Chester’s lack of life skills would have put him at a disadvantage in the wild — he did not know how to forage on his own or protect himself from predators and other possible dangers.
In May of 2015, Fisheries and Oceans Canada deemed him non-releasable and asked the Vancouver Aquarium to provide a long-term home for him.
This means the aquarium now has just one cetacean in captivity, a Pacific white-side dolphin, and the Vancouver Park Board has passed a bylaw banning the facility from keeping any new whales, dolphins or porpoises.