Subject: JJ: Rescued Baby Whale To Return t (fwd)

Mike Williamson (
Tue, 24 Mar 1998 13:29:27 -0500 (EST)

                      J. Michael Williamson
Principal Investigator-WhaleNet <>
                   Associate Professor-Science
  Wheelock College, 200 The Riverway, Boston, MA 02215
             voice: 617.734.5200, ext. 256
            fax:    617.734.8666, or 978.468.0073

          "Mother, Mother Ocean, I have heard your call,
   Wanted to sail upon your waters, since I was three feet tall"
                        Jimmy Buffett

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Tue, 24 Mar 98 12:56:00 GMT 
Subject: Rescued Baby Whale To Return t

Rescued Baby Whale To Return to Sea

 Associated Press Writer
   SAN DIEGO (AP) -- J.J. slowly rolls to the surface of her pool to
get a bucket of fish poured into her mouth. Children surrounding
her tank shriek with delight as the gray whale gulps the meal,
blows a spray of water and retreats from the noise.
   J.J. knows no other life. Sick and near death, she was brought
to Sea World 14 months ago as an abandoned baby found washed up on
a beach.
   Now she is healthy enough to return to the sea, scientists
believe -- but they're not sure she can survive killer whales, the
nets of commercial fishermen or her own curiosity.
   "We won't intervene if she is attacked or if her demise is
because of a natural occurrence," said Joe Cordaro, a wildlife
biologist for the National Marine Fisheries. "She will have the
status of a free-ranging marine animal once released.
   "J.J. will have to make it on her own," he said.
   On Thursday, if a pod of gray whales pass Point Loma as expected
on their annual 6,000-mile migration from Baja California to
Alaska, J.J. will go free.
   The first baby gray whale to be raised by humans, J.J. was only
days old when lifeguards found her found floundering in the surf
off Los Angeles' Marina del Rey on Jan. 11, 1997.
   She was malnourished, dehydrated, and undersized at 13 feet, 10
inches, weighing only 1,670 pounds. Her ribs showed through her
   Her umbilical cord was still attached, and authorities surmised
she was abandoned by her mother during the migration.
   Rushed 120 miles to Sea World for emergency care, marine
biologists nursed her with a simulation of mother's milk -- a
formula of cream, vitamins and pureed fish. After a few months, she
was eating squid.
   Now, gulping down about 600 pounds of fish, squid and small
shrimp a day, J.J. has grown to 30 feet and 18,000 pounds.
   "It's remarkable to see her now," said John Heyning, one of
her rescuers and a curator of mammals at the Los Angeles County
Museum of Natural History. "As close to death as she was and to
now be a big, fat happy whale is quite something."
   This week, weather permitting, she returns to the ocean.
   She will be lifted by a 20-ton cargo boom holding a 32-foot
stretcher onto an animal transport container secured to a flatbed
truck. Hoses and misters will keep her moist as she travels the
freeway to a naval base at San Diego Bay.
   There she will be lifted onto the deck of a 180-foot Coast Guard
buoy tender, which will take her about five miles off the coast and
release her.
   Jim Antrim, general curator at Sea World, said no one knows the
whale's chances for survival.
   "We're encouraged by the signs she's given us: feeding off the
bottom of the tank, shying away from noise and people," he said.
"I think she has all that's necessary to survive in the ocean."
   She never met her neighbors at Sea World -- two killer whales
whose tricks for hundreds of cheering tourists include balancing a
man on their noses.
  Scientists didn't want her to consider killer whales her
friends, rather than foes, even though Sea World's whales are from
a different region than those she will encounter on the Pacific
coast, Sea World researcher Ann Bowles said.
   "Her fear of novelty will serve her well," said Bowles, who
studied J.J.'s voice and listening behaviors. "It's her one line
of defense." Another worry is gray whales' habit of swimming too
close to shore and occasionally getting trapped in rivers too small
for them.
   Once near extinction, the gray whale species grew to 23,000
while legally protected from 1946 to 1993. The population increases
4 percent each year, but of the 1,000 calves born annually, only
two-thirds survive.
   The National Marine Fisheries Service has declared a no-fly zone
near J.J. to guard her from television news helicopters or pleasure
boats. By law, helicopters must stay 1,000 feet above ocean-bound
whales and boats must remain 100 yards away.
   "Everyone has taken this whale close to their heart," Cordaro
said. "But we must stop our temptation to get close to this animal
(or) we may just love this animal to death."
   Scientists will monitor J.J. by boat for the first three or four
days. Then they will use four electronic transmitters attached to
J.J. to monitor her movements to Alaska.
   If the batteries don't fail and J.J. doesn't knock out the
transmitters, researchers can watch her for as long as 18 months.
   If she stays close to her drop off point and doesn't migrate, it
doesn't mean Sea World will take her back to their tank.
   "It will take some time and we'll have to be patient," Bowles
said. "Imagine if you were dropped in your drawers in the middle
of Yellowstone National Park. It would take you a little while to
figure out how to fend for yourself."
   Biologists want to be careful not to hope for too much.
   In 1972, Sea World released Gigi, a gray whale captured in
Scammon's Lagoon in Baja California and brought in as a healthy
3-month-old. Shewas released a year later with a transmitter
   But weeks later, the signals stopped. Researchers still are
unsure whether the silence meant she was unable to readjust to the
ocean and died, or whether the transmitter malfunctioned.