A beluga whale died suddenly at Georgia Aquarium. The beloved mammal was born in captivity and had been transferred to the Georgia Aquarium in 2005. The cause of her death is currently not known and a necropsy (animal autopsy) is underway, but the results will take time.
A beloved beluga whale at Georgia Aquarium passed away suddenly on Thursday. The whale, named Maris, showed no signs of illness and was eating well, too. Moreover, she was interacting normally with Grayson and Qinu, the other two beluga whales at the aquarium, reported CNN.
However, the whale, a female, had recently lost not one, but two of her calves. Her death is indeed baffling, but quite a few strongly believe it was the life in captivity that was the cause of her death. Confirming the death of the 21-year-old beluga whale was Dr. Gregory Bossart, chief vet at the Georgia Aquarium.
“This is a case of sudden, acute animal death. Our animals receive exceptional care, and our dedicated team of experts responded to her within minutes to render aid.”
Given the fact that Maris had lived at the aquarium for almost ten years, the staff had become quite attached to the whale. The beluga whale was admired and adored by “millions” of visitors and she had a lot of fans that connected, emotionally, with her, added Mike Leven, the aquarium’s chairman and chief executive officer.
“Maris was one of the first beluga whales at Georgia Aquarium and inspired millions of guests each year. The bonds that were created over the last ten years between Maris and her animal care and veterinary teams were truly special. This unexpected loss is difficult.”
What could have caused Maris’ death? While a necropsy is underway, many theories have surfaced that attempt to explain the sudden death of the beluga whale, without it showing any signs of ill-health. At the forefront is the animal rights group, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), which has always fought against keeping animals in captivity by making the argument that life in captivity kills the creatures slowly but surely. PETA claims animals that are born in captivity aren’t able to fend for themselves in the wild, where they belong in the first place. However, it is equally important to note the beluga whale that died wasn’t being reintroduced to the wild.
Then, there’s the death of two of her calves. The beluga whale had given birth to two calves. Although the calves were not born at the same time, both died. The first one, born in 2012, died within a few short days of being born, the other one died in June earlier this year, a month after it was born. The calf was hailed as one of the first viable and successful attempts to increase population of beluga whales in captivity.
While the causes of death for both calves isn’t confirmed, PETA has made statements indicating beluga whales who give birth in captivity often wish their children would die rather than live a life of captivity; a life deprived of joy and freedom. The organization based its explanation on the observations claimed by a marine biologist. The biologist claims he witnessed an orca deliberately pushing away her calf that was attempting to suckle. He reasoned the orca, as a result of being kept in captivity, was extremely depressed.
Keeping beluga whales in captivity is quite important to learn about their behavior, claims Georgia Aquarium. They help the biologists find out how rising ocean temperatures, diseases, and underwater sounds, affect the animals.
“The data can be combined and applied to help conserve and protect wild belugas from threats in their natural habitats.”
The beluga whale had arrived at Georgia Aquarium from the New York Aquarium, reported USA Today.
[Photo via YouTube Screen Grab]