GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - The rare pygmy killer whale rescued from the Mississippi Sound in September, and being cared for at the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Gulfport died early Wednesday morning.
The whale was the only mammal rescued from this summer’s algae bloom in the Sound.
Dr. Mobi Solangi tells WLOX News the animal had been in intensive care since Monday under 24/7 watch. Its body has been taken to the college of veterinary medicine at Mississippi State University for further study.
Solangi said the whale’s death has been hard on the staff caring for it. It was found by fishermen and rescued from Cat Island two months ago. IMMS was hoping the whale would give them added insight into what happened in the Mississippi Sound after the openings of the Bonnet Carre Spillway. But the ultimate goal was to get it healthy enough to release it back into the wild.
The whale was originally identified as a melon-headed whale, but closer inspection caused researchers to revise their description and identify the animal as a pygmy killer whale. It was very rare for the animal to be so close to shore. They’re normally found much further south in the deeper waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
However, IMMS has had a big success with turtles. Twenty-four turtles have been under IMMS care since the disaster. All survived, and many have been released.
Several of the six turtles currently under rehabilitation at the Gulfport center will be released next week.
“We’re going to be satellite tags on them and track them to make sure that our rehabilitation is successful,” Solangi said.
Solangi added that with any animal, it takes a lot of dedication to save them.
“It takes an enormous amount of effort when you have to work 24/7,” he said. “These animals, you know we have to do blood work and X-rays and ultrasounds just like we would do with any human being.”
Solangi added that 150 dolphins and more than 200 sea turtles died as a result of the spillway disaster.