A young beluga whale born at Georgia Aquarium last month died on Friday, according to aquarium officials. The beluga calf was trumpeted as the undisputed evidence that whales can thrive in captivity, but its death might lead specialists to reassert this position.
Georgia Aquarium officials heralded the female calf’s birth as the first “viable calf” delivered from parents that were also born in captivity. The baby whale’s mother, named Maris, was born at the New York Aquarium, while Beethoven, its father, came from SeaWorld San Antonio.
Maris has given birth before, but its first calf died after just a few days in 2012. However, the aquarium staff was far more optimistic after the second baby was born on May 10 this year. “Early on, we were pleased to see the calf complete several key milestones, including a successful birth and bonding with her mother,” explained Gregory Bossart, who serves as Chief Veterinary Officer and Senior Vice President at the Atlanta aquarium.
Although its health condition at the time of its birth was excellent, problems with the baby whale started appearing shortly after. The calf was not evolving as it should, as Bossart said he wasn’t seeing the desired weight gain.
On Thursday, aquarium officials announced the beluga whale was in “extremely guarded condition” due to its weight problems. The veterinarians tried to keep it alive by supplementing its caloric needs, but their efforts were futile.
According to Bossart, the baby beluga whale was suffering from gastrointestinal problems that prohibited it from growing as it should. Although a necropsy will be conducted, health officials are pessimistic about finding the cause of death.
Animal rights advocates have blasted the Georgia Aquarium for its captive whale and dolphin programs. Georgia Animal Rights and Protection have blamed aquarium officials for the calf’s death in a public email. Further demonstrations are expected to take place on Saturday, as part of the annual Empty Tanks Worldwide campaign.
The calf was less than a month old when it died, and it didn’t even have a name. Aquarium officials were planning to hold a naming contest for it.
Image Source: Huffington Post