Chester the ‘Miraculously Rescued’ False Killer Whale Dies in Captivity

November 26, 2017 Updated: November 26, 2017

Chester, a false killer whale rescued from the brink of death several years ago, died on Friday, Nov. 24, at the Vancouver Aquarium.

“We are deeply saddened to announce his passing this morning,” said Vancouver Aquarium president and CEO John Nightingale in a statement provided to the CBC.

He did not say what caused Chester’s death, but in a blog post, the aquarium said on Friday that his behavior changed on Wednesday afternoon. Despite overnight intensive care on Wednesday and Thursday, Chester passed away early Friday morning, it said.

The Vancouver Aquarium has been Chester’s home since his dramatic rescue in July 2014 when he was found stranded on a windswept beach in Tofino, British Columbia, Canada.

Local residents found him in extremely poor shape at about a month old on North Chesterman Beach. He was malnourished and dehydrated and had a number of cuts and wounds on his body.

The aquarium said that Chester’s rescue was “nothing short of a miracle” and his subsequent survival was “an incredible feat of determination on both the part of the animal and his rescuers.”

The cetaceanthe category of marine mammal Chester belongs to that includes whales, dolphins, and porpoises—had a less than 10 percent chance of survival, said the Vancouver Aquarium.

But after receiving over 10,000 hours of veterinary treatment and care, Chester managed to pull through and became a “beloved member of the Aquarium family: affectionate, cheeky, and full of fun.”

A review was conducted by Fisheries and Oceans Canada following Chester’s recovery, and because he was so young when he was found, he wasn’t able to develop the necessary survival skills for a life in the wild. He was therefore deemed “non-releasable” and the aquarium in Vancouver became his permanent home.

Below is a  video of Chester’s dramatic rescue and subsequent recovery at the Vancouver Aquarium:


Specialists at the aquarium are now investigating the cause of Chester’s death.

“We know that stranded animals, possibly because of injuries sustained during stranding, do have incidences of renal failure later on. That is something we’ll be looking at during the necropsy,” said Vancouver Aquarium head veterinarian Martin Haulena.

Chester’s death is yet another episode in the ongoing debate about whether the Vancouver Aquarium should keep captive cetaceans.

In November 2016, the last two beluga whales at the aquarium died nine days apart, allegedly due to an undetermined toxin, CBC writes.

In June, a harbor porpoise also died at the aquarium.

With Chester gone, only one living cetacean remains at the aquarium—a Pacific white-sided dolphin named Helen.

“Today and for the next few days, our team will be dedicating our time with Helen … to help her adjust to the change,” the aquarium said. “We encourage you to share your memories of Chester.”

Chester was about three and a half years old when he died.

“Chester enchanted and educated millions of Vancouver Aquarium visitors about his unusual species and their life in the wild,” the Vancouver Aquarium statement reads, “he will be missed by all.”

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