Despite the efforts of a marine-mammal care team, Vancouver's only beluga whale did not survive a serious abdominal problem.
Vancouver Aquarium officials have announced "with immense sadness" that Aurora died last night.
The 30-year-old whale had been sick for two weeks.
"After a determined around-the-clock effort by animal care staff and the veterinary team, she slipped away this evening surrounded by the people who loved her, some whom have cared for her since she first arrived in 1990," the aquarium said in a statement. "To our team, Aurora was a part of our family and her loss is absolutely heartbreaking. The marine mammal care team working night and day to care for her are our true heroes, even if we lost the battle."
Veterinarian Martin Haulena will conduct a necropsy.
Aurora was the sixth cetacean associated with the Vancouver Aquarium to die within the last two years.
Her daughter Qila died two weeks ago at the age of 21.
In August 2016, a harbour porpoise named Jack passed away.
In July of 2015, a beluga whale whose father is owned by the Vancouver Aquarium died at a SeaWorld facility in San Antonia, Texas. The calf was just three weeks old.
In May 2015, a dolphin named Hana—one of only two dolphins the Vancouver Aquarium held in captivity—passed away shortly after undergoing bowel surgery at the facility in Stanley Park.
Before that, in February 2015, a beluga whale named Nanuq died while on loan to a SeaWorld facility in Orlando, Florida.
A July 2014 park board report revealed that the Vancouver Aquarium owns six other beluga whales. At the time, four were at Sea World facilities and two were at the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta. One of the whales at Sea World died in 2015.
Earlier this week, NPA park board chair Sarah Kirby-Yung told the Vancouver Sun that she plans on bringing forward a motion seeking a referendum in 2018. If approve by a majority of commissioners, it would ask voters if they want the Vancouver aquarium to keep whales and dolphins in its Stanley Park facility.
The Vancouver Aquarium insists that it does not capture cetaceans from the wild for display. It has pledged that it will only house:
- cetaceans captured before 1996;
- cetaceans already being kept in a zoo or aquarium before 1996;
- cetaceans born in a zoo or aquarium;
- cetaceans that were rescued from the wild and rehabilitated, but deemed nonreleasable.