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On Saturday, April 6th, 2019, Fredi, a short-finned pilot whale who has lived at SeaWorld Orlando since she was first rescued as a calf, died after she living under the facility’s care for eight years with a pod of pilot whales, who were also rescued as calves. In addition, she also spent those years receiving a combination of world-class care, and a second chance that she would have never received, if it had not been for the knowledge and dedication of SeaWorld’s very own rescue team, and their understanding of how to better respond to, and care for, sick, injured, and orphaned animals.
Fredi, who is also known as “301,” was rescued during one of four mass pilot strandings that occurred off the coast of Florida. However, due to her age at the time of her rescue, NOAA determined that she was “non-releasable,” and asked SeaWorld to provide her a forever home for the sake of receiving life-long care. This is because, at the time of her rescue, Fredi was already determined to be a calf who was still dependent on her mother for survival. In the wild, Fredi would have probably nursed from her mother for up to two years. However, since it was believed that her mother did not survive the stranding, she could not be released since the chance of her being rejected by another pod of pilot whales were pretty much high since females live in tight-knit pods. So, NOAA chose SeaWorld Orlando’s animal care team to become her surrogate family, because of their long history of caring for rescued pilot whales, and their expertise in animal husbandry and care.
Fredi was not the only surviving animal from the 2011 strandings. In fact, she was rescued along with an adult female named Hundy, who was known as “300.” She was also deemed “non-releasable,” as the result of intensive health issues, which included severe scoliosis. During her two years under SeaWorld’s care, the animal care staff developed a special brace that was aimed at assisting Hundy during her routine therapy sessions. She died from complications relating to her original stranding in 2013 despite this life-saving effort.
Of the 23 pilot whales who were stranded near Cudjoe Key, Florida in 2011, eight initially survived, while another two were lifted on a barge to be released 40 miles off the Florida Keys while the remaining thirteen animals died on the beach, despite rescue efforts by SeaWorld, and its partners. Fredi and Hundy were the only two pilot whales to have been deemed “non-releasable” by the US government. During that time, SeaWorld’s veterinarian and rescue team provided critical care, treatment, and trained handling experience for those 23 animals by assisting local partners in all rescue and rehabilitation efforts. The efforts resulted in Fredi and Hundy’s survival.
It is said that whenever cetaceans strand, there is no guarantee that they ever make a full recovery. This is because, during her eights years living under SeaWorld’s care, Fredi continued to face a series of on-going health issues. In recent months, she had been showing signs of fatigue and loss of appetite, and it was through a physical exam that it was determined that she was suffering from an infection. After immediate treatment, her condition progressed, and was required to have advanced monitoring and care by veterinarians, and the animal care staff. Yet, despite the efforts, both Fredi’s health and quality of life continued to decline, and it had come to the point where she was no longer responding to any form of life-saving treatment.
While the veterinarians believe that Fredi’s infection was not contagious, the animal care staff will continue to monitor her three pod-mates. These three animals named Ace, Ava, and Piper were rescued and rehabilitated by SeaWorld a year after Fredi and Hundy’s rescue.
Fredi will be forever missed by those who knew and loved her the best.