A female beluga whale called Maris died suddenly at Georgia Aquarium on Thursday. Aquarium CEO Mike Leven said that they will know the necropsy results of the 21-year old Maris in four to six weeks.
The aquarium stated that Maris showed no signs of illness before her death. Maris was one the first beluga whale to arrive at the aquarium, and she interacted normally with two other beluga whales (Grayson and Qinu) in the aquarium. Leven said Grayson and Qinu have adapted to living without Maris. Maris was born in the New York Aquarium in 1994, and arrived at the Georgia aquarium in 2005.
“This is a case of sudden, acute animal death,” said Dr. Gregory Bossart, chief vet at Georgia aquarium.
According to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimate, beluga whales live to be 35 to 50 years in the wild. Georgia aquarium veterinarians and University of Georgia pathologists are set to ascertain the cause of death in a few weeks. On May 10, Maris gave birth to a female baby beluga, but the calf died 26 days later as it was unable to gain sufficient weight. Maris had also given birth to a baby calf in 2012, but it died in less than a week. The death of Maris has affected the caregivers at the aquarium.
People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) said that Maris died because she was a captive animal. On Friday, Lisa Lange, senior vice president, PETA stated that Maris was denied freedom her entire life. She was transferred from one facility to another, and her babies died one after the other, she added. Georgia Aquarium says that beluga in human care can be studied by researchers for application in areas of diseases, rising ocean temperatures and how underwater sounds affects animals.
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Female beluga whale dies suddenly at Georgia aquarium