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  The Atlanta Journal-Constitution 15 Dec 06
Captive Beluga whale gravely ill one year after world's biggest indoor aquarium opens
Gasper still reported gravely ill
By Jim Tharpe

Georgia Aquarium officials on Friday continued to monitor Gasper, the popular beluga whale now described as gravely ill with a failing immune system.

"We haven't seen any change in his condition in the last 48 hours," said aquarium spokesman Dave Santucci.

The 12-foot whale, who captured the hearts of many visitors when the world's biggest indoor aquarium opened a year ago in downtown Atlanta, is fighting for his life as a chronic and potentially fatal bone disease takes its toll.

Gasper has not eaten on his own in two weeks and is being fed through a tube three times a day. "He has shown no interest in food," said Tim Binder, the aquarium's director of husbandry. Gasper is being fed a "gruel" of ground fish, water and medication every eight hours, Binder said.

Aquarium officials have declined to speculate on his chances for survival, but stress that the ghostly white whale is fighting an uphill battle.

Known for swimming near the big window of his tank and blowing bubbles, Gasper is in serious trouble. "Without a functioning immune system, his future is limited," Binder said. Gasper and his tankmate, Nico, were brought to the world's largest indoor aquarium from a Mexico City amusement park where they had been kept in substandard conditions.

Aquarium officials knew Gasper was sick when they acquired him in 2005 he had brownish skin lesions. They later discovered he suffers from osteomyelitis, a chronic and potentially fatal bone disease.

Gasper was removed from public view in April and placed in a cordoned off area of the Cold Water Quest gallery where he was allowed periodic contact with the three female belugas that share the exhibit with he and Nico.

His conditioned worsened in October, but he rallied a bit. The most recent decline has been precipitous, despite a frantic effort by medical specialists at the aquarium and across the nation to save his life.

"We've done everything," Binder said. "The animal is gravely ill."

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