CUDJOE KEY (CBS4) – Five pilot whales which were part of a group which beached themselves near Cudjoe Key last week have survived another night.
Karrie Carnes with the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration said late Saturday they began to feed the whales to help them keep up their strength. Vets and volunteers used feeding tubes to give them Pedia-Lite, a hydration liquid for children; two were fed formula, two others were fed fish and a vitamin mixture while the fifth was kept hydrated.
“I consider these five animals to be in critical condition. I will be cautiously optimistic. Some are even more guarded,” said Dr. Chris Dold, a vet from SeaWorld.
Carnes said no decision has been made at this point to transfer them to a rehab facilty.
A total of 14 whales have died since Thursday.
On Saturday two of the whales, 12 to 13 feet long, were placed on a barge and taken about nine miles off the lower Florida Keys where they were released into the ocean.
Volunteers said the two whales appeared healthier than the others.
“When they actually lifted them out of the water their tails pulled up from the chest down they’re all muscle and they were ready and engaged,” said Marilyn Rogers, a volunteer.
It was a sentiment echoed by the vets.
“Nothing that gave any indication of illness there,” said Dold. “They were vocalizing a lot which is a good indicator that an animal feels good.”
Data from satellite tracking tags, affixed to the whales, show them swimming strong in deep water, in the Florida Straits.
Carnes said the whales were moving in an east-northeast direction from Saturday afternoon’s release point off the lower Florida Keys.
“We’re all breathing a sigh of relief,” Carnes said. “They’re where they’re supposed to be.”
Officials are planning to eventually relocate the other five from a temporary sea pen to the Marine Mammal Conservancy in Key Largo.