Beluga whale born in captivity in Georgia dies

The female beluga calf born on Mother’s Day at the Georgia Aquarium has died. The facility’s veterinary team had been caring for the calf and her mother, Maris, around the clock, optimistic the calf would defy the odds. But the aquarium posted the sad news on Facebook on Friday.

“While next to her mother and in the arms of her dedicated caregivers, the calf took her last breath, and her heart stopped just after 7:00 a.m. This is a difficult loss for the entire Aquarium, and we welcome your positive thoughts and support.”

Dr. Gregory Bossart, who is the facility’s senior vice president and chief veterinary officer, said officials were monitoring the calf and attempted to help her put on the pounds by giving her formula. But On June 5, she was having trouble swimming and was looking lethargic. Details were posted on the aquarium’s blog.

“Because of the statistical probability of survival of beluga whale calves, we’ve always been guardedly optimistic. Early on, we were pleased to see the calf complete several key milestones, including a successful birth and bonding with her mother. There were still some critical milestones to overcome, however, and we became concerned when we were not seeing the desired weight gain in the calf. Preliminary diagnostics, including consultation from veterinary specialists, indicated that the calf had gastrointestinal issues that were preventing her from properly absorbing and assimilating nutrients that she needed to grow and thrive.”

Odds of survival increases with each pregnancy. And, Maris had a calf in 2012, but it died within days of birth.


Mike Leven, the aquarium’s CEO and chairman, issued a statement.

“While we recognize death is part of the natural cycle of life, this remains a difficult loss for the entire Aquarium team. Our devoted team of staff and trained volunteers brought an extraordinary level of work and dedication to ensure a smooth pregnancy, labor, delivery and ongoing care for Maris and her calf through thousands of hours of service over 16 months.”

Now, officials said they would focus on Maris’ well-being. But some animal welfare activists said the death is just another reason why marine mammals shouldn’t be kept in captivity. Georgia Animal Rights and Protection posted this statement to Facebook.

“We are so sorry for Maris, the baby’s mother. Georgia Aquarium has forced Maris to endure the sorrow of the loss of yet another baby in their pointless experimental attempts to breed belugas in captivity. Why can’t Georgia Aquarium just accept that beluga whales do not belong in tanks?”

A necropsy will be conducted on the deceased calf, but an exact cause of death may never be known.

Photos Georgia Aquarium/Facebook

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