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First-of-its-kind surgery performed on dolphin at Vancouver Aquarium

(Courtesy Vancouver Aquarium)

A dolphin has never been put under anesthesia before

Pacific white-sided dolphin Hana underwent surgery for a gastro-intestinal problem

VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – A Pacific white-sided dolphin at the Vancouver Aquarium has had an unprecedented surgery that could save its life.

Hana’s handlers noticed there was a gastro-intestinal problem earlier this week and a team of vets was flown in to help. Her condition began to deteriorate Thursday night and the team decided surgery was the best option to try and save her.

Dolphins don’t breathe on reflex like land-dwelling mammals and one has never been put under anesthesia before.

“This procedure was the first of its kind, carried out by an extraordinary veterinary team assembled and led by head veterinarian Dr. Haulena,” said Clint Wright, senior vice president and general manager of Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre. “Without his professional experience, knowledge and history of collaboration, Hana would not have had this chance. We’re very fortunate.”

The surgery is over, but vets say it will be a couple of days before we know if the 21-year-old dolphin will survive.

“Only a few years ago, such a procedure on a whale or dolphin would not have been possible,” said Dr. Haulena. “With advances in marine mammal medicine it’s now a slim but possible option, and we had help from the very best in the field of veterinary medicine. What the team was able to achieve last night was a breakthrough in veterinary care as Hana’s surgical procedure has never before been successfully completed. Her prognosis is still critical, but we’re hopeful.”