GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - After washing ashore on an Alabama beach three weeks ago, the melon-headed whale that's been recovering at the Institute for Marine Mammal is improving.
Dr. Debra Moore, the veterinarian at the IMMS, has been monitoring the animal around the clock. She says experts never know what to expect when dealing with a rare animal.
"We were very concerned about pneumonia and he was extremely sick when he stranded. We had [another whale] that stranded three or four days prior to him and that one ended up being euthanized. So we were very concerned, and we wanted to make sure he had the best medical care here. So we did diagnostic work on him and treated him."
Now, he's all better and is moving out of quarantine and into a 30-foot deep pool.
It's the first time that the species has been successfully rehabilitated under human care in the region.
"It doesn't happen very often, so it's very important that we are able to learn more about this species. We don't know much about them in the Gulf of Mexico," added Moore.
Moving an animal that weighs well over 300 pounds is a lot of work. That's why the Gulfport Fire Department came by to lend some extra muscle. Fire Lt. Ryan Carter says they don't get calls to move a whale very often.
"It was pretty cool. There aren't that many times where you get to move a whale. It was pretty neat and interesting that we were able to help out and get him into a bigger pool where he could start moving around a little more," said Carter.
The whale isn't on public display at the institute, but the facility's director says this teaches a strong lesson in the difficulties of rescuing and rehabilitating marine life.
The whale will stay at the institute for the next few weeks while undergoing more tests and treatment before the staff can determine if he is ready to be released back into the Gulf.