Last month the rest of the world was awaiting the appearance of an heir to the British throne, but Brad Andrews had another birth on his mind. As curator of mammals at the Marineland aquarium in Palos Verdes Estates, Calif., Andrews, 32, anxiously supervised the 16-month pregnancy of Corky, an 8,000-pound killer whale. Since she was netted off the coast of British Columbia in 1969, Corky, 14, had given birth to three calves. Two died in infancy and the other was stillborn. “I remember thinking to myself how hard it must be for doctors in intensive care to lose a patient,” says Andrews, a former captain of the U.S.A. Rugby Football Union team who has worked at Marineland for 10 years. “And those animals are not just patients to us. We love them and learn from them.”
The whales’ human curators teach them as well. Twice before, Corky’s calves had starved to death because they were unable to locate their mother’s mammary glands, which are protectively hidden beneath the body blubber. Andrews speculates that in the wild, a more experienced mother in a small school, or pod, may help the newborn calf locate a first-time mother’s mammaries. To prepare Corky for this birth, Andrews and his staffers sought to teach her proper positioning by using a plastic surrogate. Yet when the calf was born June 18, she was unable to find her way to the mammaries. The aquarium now force-feeds the calf four times daily with a gallon of protein-enriched whipping cream formula.
The still-unnamed youngster has an uncertain purchase on life; it will be at least six months before the calf will graduate from the nursing stage. If she survives, she will be the first killer whale to be born and raised in captivity. Andrews and wife Enid have no children, but he is waiting out the danger period with a parent’s fears. He doesn’t plan to name the newcomer until she is strong enough to survive. “We just shouldn’t,” he says. “It would be even harder on everyone if…”