Tyonek the Texan: Beluga whale will be moved to SeaWorld San Antonio

Tyonek is going to Texas.

The rescued Cook Inlet beluga whale will soon call SeaWorld San Antonio home, according to a release from NOAA Fisheries.

In January, NOAA determined that Tyonek was “non-releasable” and would not survive life in the wild, so the organization began reviewing applications for which facility would make the best, permanent home for the whale, which has been under 24/7 care from experts at the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward since he was found stranded on the Cook Inlet mud flats in September 2017.

“The most important factor for placement of Tyonek was his age and social needs,” said Kate Brogan with NOAA Fisheries Public Affairs. “SeaWorld of Texas had the most appropriate social group to integrate Tyonek, comprising of several mature females that may act as surrogate mothers as well as two young male calves that will provide additional companionship for him as he continues to grow.”

Tyonek was less than a month old when he was rescued and has been at Alaska SeaLife Center ever since. According to NOAA, he has become both nutrionally and socially dependent and lacks the survival and socialization skills that are necessary for life in the wild.

“A permanent place at a marine mammal facility provides Tyonek with a second chance at survival and social development with other belugas,” according to the release.

A specific date for Tyonek’s move has not been set, but Brogan said NOAA will continue their work to ensure that everything goes smoothly.

“NOAA Fisheries will continue to work with the Alaska Sea Life Center and SeaWorld of Texas to coordinate the safe and speedy transport of Tyonek to his new home,” she said.

Tyonek comes from the Cook Inlet beluga population, which is designated as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. NOAA scientists estimate that their abundance is at about 328 animals.

“We want to thank the Alaska SeaLife Center and our partners in the marine mammal conservation community for the dedicated care that helped rehabilitate Tyonek,” said Assistant Administrator for NOAA Fisheries Chris Oliver. “The permanent placement of Tyonek at SeaWorld San Antonio—and the scientific knowledge gained by learning from him for years to come — will benefit Cook Inlet beluga research and recovery.”

Reach Kat Sorensen at kat.sorensen@peninsulaclarion.com.

More in News

Image via the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation
Nikiski soil treatment facility moves ahead

The facility, located at 52520 Kenai Spur Highway, has drawn ire from community residents.

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
COVID case rate continues decline; 7 new deaths reported

The state reported 632 new COVID-19 cases in Alaska.

People sit on a float by Kendall Auto Group during the “Christmas Comes to Kenai” parade on Friday, Nov. 26, 2021 in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
‘It’s our biggest so far’

The holiday spirit is back in a big way with ‘Christmas Comes to Kenai’

Alaska State Troopers logo.
Anchor Point house fire leaves 1 dead, 1 in serious condition

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

EPA logo
Alaska Native group to receive EPA funds for clean water projects

The agency is handing out $4.3 million to participating tribal organizations nationwide.

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
State reports 6 new COVID deaths

The deaths, which included a Kenai woman in her 40s, pushed the total to 840 since the pandemic began.

Ryanna Thurman (right) speaks to a library employee at the Soldotna Public Library on Thursday, March 25 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Soldotna library seeks OK for grant fund purchases

The funds are made available under the federal American Rescue Plan Act

Most Read