APPLE VALLEY, Minn. — Big Mouth, an 1,800-pound beluga whale recovering from pioneering surgery to remove a lesion from his jaw, was returned today to his display tank at the Minnesota Zoo, zoo officials said.
"He looks real good," said Ron Tilson, the zoo's acting director of biological programs. "The wound itself is hardly noticeable. If you didn't know and if you couldn't see the stitches, you'd hardly know (surgery was performed)."
Dr. Lawrence Marentette, one of the three surgeons who performed the procedure Thursday, said the chances of the animal dying were about 50-50.
"The tension was very high, mainly because we were afraid we were going to kill him," Marentette said.
The removal of the lesion, which had bothered Big Mouth for more than two years, was the first time such surgery had been performed on a marine mammal, Marentette said.