Catching up with Tyonek, the famed beluga whale now living in San Antonio, Texas

Tyonek, the famed beluga whale, appears to be thriving in his Seaworld San Antonio home.
Published: Sep. 18, 2020 at 10:11 AM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - It was a story that captured the hearts of Alaskans. A beluga calf that was found stranded off the coast of Alaska back in September of 2017. Tyonek would ultimately be saved but it would require being nursed back to health and rehabilitated at the Alaska SeaLife Center.

A release back into the ocean was not a viable option after that.

“The US Government deemed him non-releasable due to his very young age at stranding, his dependency on people, and underlying medical condition.” Said Katie Kolodziej of Seaworld, San Antonio.

In 2018, Seaworld San Antonio stepped in and took charge of this unique member of the whale world.

“It means so many things to so many people, for the trainers interacting with him daily we take very seriously the responsibility of caring for an individual from this critically endangered population of beluga whales,” Kolodziej said.

In his new Texas-based home, the young water dweller has made new lone star state friends.

 Photo of Tyonek, beluga whale calf (Activities pictured authorized by MMHSRP's MMPA/ESA)
Photo of Tyonek, beluga whale calf (Activities pictured authorized by MMHSRP's MMPA/ESA) (KTUU)

“He has been introduced to 12 other beluga whales including two other beluga calves that are very close in age to him,” Kolodziej said.

Tyonek has even found a maternal figure in the Seaworld pools to help the white whale integrate into the park’s social setting.

“I can not accurately tell Tyonek’s story without talking about one very special dolphin that we have here, her name is Betty, and she and Tyonek have forged an indescribable and unbelievable bond.”

Now settled into his new home, Tyonek provides a plucky sort of PR for his brethren of the sea.

“Tyonek is a true ambassador for his ocean counterparts. I believe his legacy has been to make the world a smaller place,” Kolodziej said.

 From SeaWorld
From SeaWorld (KTUU)

The Cook Inlet belugas are an endangered class of whale, which is why Tyonek’s story and charisma are so impactful.

“Over my 23 years working with Seaworld, by far Tyonek and being a part of his life is a defining moment of my career,” Kolodziej said.

Not bad for a once beached boy who now draws awareness to the plight of the smallest species of whale in the vast ocean waters.

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