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Surviving Pilot Whale Taken To SeaWorld

KEY LARGO (CBS4) – A pilot whale which had been convalescing at a Key Largo facility since a mass stranding on May 5 now has a new home at SeaWorld in Orlando.

A few weeks ago, the National Marine Fisheries Service determined the 12-foot-long, 1,010-pound female whale, named "300", should not be returned to the wild and approved SeaWorld to provide her a permanent, caring home.

"300" suffers from a curvature of the spine and although shows signs of improvement, animal experts with the National Marine Fisheries Service determined the whale is unlikely to completely recover and requires intensive physical therapy.

At SeaWorld, she joins Fredi, a young female whale from the same stranding that was considered to be a dependent calf and also could not be returned to the wild. Fredi was moved to SeaWorld on July 23. SeaWorld Orlando was chosen to provide a home and long-term care for both whales because of the park's experience with pilot whales and expertise in animal husbandry and care, especially with stranded animals.  

Both whales were being cared for in Key Largo by SeaWorld staff and other volunteers at the Marine Mammal Conservancy.

On Monday, September 12, the whale was carefully guided onto a stretcher and then hoisted into a large, water-filled transport unit. The whale was continually monitored by park animal experts and veterinarian, Dr. Scott Gearhart, during the trip.  According to Gearhart, "We're cautiously optimistic for her rehabilitation, but we're encouraged by her great attitude, swimming and eating. She's very attentive and responds well to our care."

The park's animal experts will soon begin extensive physical therapy to help with the just-arrived whale's spinal curvature. Both whales will be monitored 'round the clock.  

SeaWorld's goal is to have both animals join the company's other pilot whales in the near term.

In the past 45 years, more than 18,000 animals have been rescued and cared for by SeaWorld's animal rescue experts.  The ultimate goal for every animal SeaWorld rescues is to return it to the wild. For the few the government deems unable to survive on their own, such as this pilot whale, SeaWorld is willing to provide a permanent home.  

The animal was one of 23 that stranded near Cudjoe Key. Most died at the scene, but two male whales were released after being deemed healthy enough to survive in the wild. Two female pilot whales, Fredi and "300" are the only other survivors. It is not known what caused the stranding.

(TM and © Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Florida Keys News Bureau contributed to this report.)

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