British Columbia

Dolphin has 'breakthrough' surgery at Vancouver Aquarium

One of two Pacific white-sided dolphins at the Vancouver Aquarium is in serious condition after groundbreaking emergency surgery for a gastrointestinal disorder.

Procedure was successful, but 21-year-old Hana needs round-the-clock care for next 48 hours

Hana (in front) is one of two Pacific white-sided dolphins at the Vancouver Aquarium. She underwent a groundbreaking emergency surgery for a gastrointestinal disorder. (Vancouver Aquarium)

One of two Pacific white-sided dolphins at the Vancouver Aquarium is in serious condition after groundbreaking emergency surgery for a gastrointestinal disorder.

Aquarium veterinarian Dr. Martin Haulena says that while the procedure was successful, 21-year-old Hana is being watched around the clock for the next 48 critical hours.

A team of animal care professionals will monitor Hana around the clock. (Vancouver Aquarium)

He says the normally energetic dolphin was listless earlier this week and that a team of experts flown in from across the United States confirmed she had gastrointestinal problems.

The cause of Hana's illness is not yet known, but Haulena says it is a rapid and life-threatening condition among animals both in captivity and in the wild.

As Hana's condition deteriorated Thursday evening, the experts decided to try surgery using general anesthesia, which the aquarium says has never been done before on a dolphin or whale.

Haulena describes the surgery as a breakthrough in veterinary care and says such a procedure would have been considered impossible only a few years ago.

Hana, a white-sided dolphin, underwent surgery using general anesthesia, which the aquarium says has never been done before on a dolphin or whale. (Vancouver Aquarium)

"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... 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."

Hana has been at the Vancouver Aquarium since 2005. She arrived from Enoshima Aquarium in Japan, where she was looked after for injuries from a fixed-location fishing net off the country's east coast in 2003.

When Japanese officials decided her injuries made it unlikely she would survive in the wild, she was sent to Vancouver. 

With files from CBC

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