A Whale Of A Health Plan

Nico and Gasper, a pair of beluga whales at the new Georgia Aquarium, are wildly popular but medically worrisome.

CBS News correspondent Mark Strassman reports Gasper's condition is especially troubling. He's over-stressed and underweight — though that's hard to tell by watching what it takes to get him to the vet. It's a delicate process that involves hoisting the giant sea mammals from their tank using a sling.

Tim Binder, who oversees the health of all the aquarium's creatures, says Gasper's condition was critical when he first showed up at the aquarium.

Human contact was probably the worst thing that ever happened to the two whales, who until last October, lived in terrible conditions at a Mexico City amusement park. Their tank sat right underneath a roller coaster, and next to a superhighway.

Nico, the dominant one, is also the hardy one. At 12-feet long and almost 1,500 pounds, his check-ups please veterinarian Howard Krum. "All in all he's a pretty robust animal," says Krum.

But Gasper needs treatments for lesions on his flippers, tail and some underneath his skin — detectable only by a thermograph.

The two whales now undergo checkups and treatments every three weeks. They've gone from no medical care in Mexico, to what amounts to a premium managed care program. And a crisis for most people is good news for Gasper: He's gained 72 pounds in three weeks.

"We got him out of there in the nick of time. And he seems so far so good, but we've got a long way to go," says Binder.

It's proof that nature's biggest creatures can sometimes be the most fragile.