Experts work to save pair of whales found in Gulfport

Gulfport, Miss. — Marine experts in Mississippi are working around the clock as a mysterious pair of whales, their species unseen in south Mississippi for 40 years, fight for survival.

Director Moby Solangi of the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Gulfport said a fisherman Tuesday reported what he thought were two dead dolphins on the beach in Waveland.

“The rescue team was quite surprised when they got there,” Solangi tells The Sun Herald ( ). “Not only were they not dead, they weren’t dolphins.”

Solangi said the mammals are two melon-headed whales, a species native to deep waters near Hawaii. He said the whales are in critical condition — severely dehydrated, disoriented and unable to swim on their own.

The team won’t know what is exactly ailing the whales until blood tests are completed.

“I’ve been here for 40 years and never seen anything like this,” Solangi said. “We are pretty much working in the unknown.”

Veterinarian Tim Hoffland said the two juveniles were likely chasing fish and got about 200 miles off course. “This is definitely the first time anyone here has seen one.”

Hoffland said the whales are youngsters, with about three more years until they are fully mature.

“They can grow to 9 feet and about 600 pounds,” he said. “We just have to get them through this.”

Shifts currently are rotating every four hours to cradle the whales in their pool and feed them fish. “If someone isn’t with them, they will drown,” Solangi said. “One also is suffering from a shark bite and is barely hanging on.

Solangi said he believes the whales would have died on the beach if IMMS did not have the ability to care for them.

“They are lucky to have been stranded so close to our facility,” he said. “Without our veterinarians, employees and technology, they would certainly be dead.”