Four pilot whales that survived a mass stranding along Florida's east coast were transported early Wednesday to SeaWorld Orlando, where the animals will continue to be rehabilitated.
The juvenile short-finned pilot whales had been receiving care at Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute’s Rehabilitation Center in Ft. Pierce. The whales are being kept in quarantine so SeaWorld animals don't contract viruses or diseases.
The whales, one male and three females, are the only surviving whales from a stranding of 22 that occurred Saturday at Avalon State Park in St. Lucie County.
The whales, ranging in size from 130 to 325 pounds, were placed in a quarantine area at SeaWorld Orlando and will continue to receive round-the-clock care from SeaWorld’s veterinarians and animal rescue staff. The animals are still in guarded condition, officials said.
One of the whales – a female – is so young her teeth have not yet developed, according to SeaWorld’s animal experts, who plan to tube-feed the three older whales until they are able to eat fish.
"Right now these animals are getting a liquid diet something to sooth their stomachs," said Mike Boos, the SeaWorld vice president of animals.
It's not known why the group of whales stranded, and necropsies have been conducted on the deceased animals to determine possible causes.
"That's the million dollar question. Is it weather related, navigational... the rest of them following?"
Tests and samples results are still pending and are expected to come back by the end of the week.