MYSTIC, Conn. – The second of five whales brought from Canada to Connecticut's Mystic Aquarium last year for research purposes has died.
The aquarium announced on its website that the female beluga whale had been receiving intensive care for the past several months for multiple health issues, but died early Friday morning. A necropsy was to be performed to determine the cause of death.
“Veterinarians and animal care experts at Mystic Aquarium, with the support of veterinarians and animal husbandry members from other aquariums worldwide, devoted the full capacity of their expertise to the whale, providing round-the-clock medical treatment, testing, and 24-hour monitoring,” the aquarium said in a statement.
A male beluga named Havok, who had a preexisting gastrointestinal issue, died in August. The two whales were among five brought to Mystic last spring from Marineland in Niagara Falls, Ontario, after a lengthy legal battle to obtain permits from both the United States and Canada.
Animal rights activists had sued unsuccessfully to block the transport, alleging a permit granted by the U.S. Commerce secretary and National Marine Fisheries Service didn't adequately address the potential harm to the belugas caused by being moved to the Connecticut aquarium.
The whales, which ranged in age from 7 to 12 at the time of the transport, were born in captivity, and officials say they cannot safely be released into the ocean. Mystic officials had said at the time the five whales left behind an overcrowded habitat with about 50 other Belugas in Canada. Officials had said the animals were to be trained to voluntarily give blood, saliva, blowhole air and other samples in exchange for rewards.
The Animal Welfare Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based animal protection advocacy organization, called for an investigation into the deaths in a statement on its website.
Dr. Stephen Coan, Mystic Aquarium's president and CEO, said the aquarium has addressed issues raised during a visit last fall by the U.S. Department of Agriculture after the first whale died. Those included the handling of animals with vision challenges, certain fluctuations in water quality and shade for animals.
“Inspections, investigations when an animal dies, and accreditation processes are essential learning tools to advance the care and welfare of animals," Coan said in the aquarium’s statement. "We are constantly seeking to evolve and learn in our mission to provide the best possible care for animals.”