Thursday, 21 May 2009

Popular Dolphin Dies at Vancouver Aquarium

Updated Thu. May. 21 2009 9:32 PM ET

Darcy Wintonyk,

A popular inhabitant of the Vancouver Aquarium has passed away.

Laverne, a 31-year-old female Pacific white-sided dolphin, died on Wednesday night after a month long illness.

Laverne -- the oldest white-sided dolphin in North America -- came to Vancouver in July 2005 from a SeaWorld in Texas, and quickly became a favourite at the facility.

"She was very, very much loved dolphin here," Dr. Martin Haulena, staff veterinarian at the Vancouver Aquarium, said. "A very interactive dolphin, loved to meet the kids and that sort of thing."

Haulena said she was considered a geriatric animal because of her advanced age, and was "treated for a variety of old lady conditions" over the past few years.

"Skin diseases, a little arthritis, some yeast infections," Haulena said. "Her medical record is quite extensive and she'd been reaching her twilight or retirement years and was a great girl to work with."

Laverne started showing signs of decline a month ago. Radiographs and ultrasounds showed the aging dolphin had a buildup of fluid accumulating in her abdominal cavity.

The dolphin stopped eating on Friday. Her trainers became encouraged when she stabled off over the weekend, but she lost her battle several days later after vets became more aggressive in therapy.

She passed away on Wednesday afternoon, surrounded by the people who had worked with her for the last four years.

"She was held by all five of her trainers so that was a very touching moment," Haulena said.

It is believed she died of a twisted intestine after a loop of her bowel twisted off and cut off circulation to itself.

"So this bowel died very quickly, releasing bacteria and toxins into her abdominal cavity and that set off a very bad infection," Haulena said.

A necropsy will be performed at the Provincial Animal Health Laboratory, and results are expected within a few weeks.


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