Aquarium Welcomed 5 Whales in 2021. 3 Are Now Dead

Beluga named Kharabali, 9, had been swimming abnormally at Mystic Aquarium since November
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 13, 2023 12:28 PM CST
3rd Whale in 2 Years Dies at Connecticut Aquarium
Two beluga whales swim together in an acclimation pool after arriving at Mystic Aquarium on May 14, 2021 in Mystic, Connecticut.   (Jason DeCrow/AP Images for Mystic Aquarium)

A 9-year-old beluga whale at Mystic Aquarium named Kharabali has died, marking the third death among five whales that were transported there from Canada in 2021. Kharabali began swimming abnormally in November and "her strange behavior continued to progress." She was eventually moved to the intensive care facility at the aquarium's Aquatic Animal Study Center and died Monday, the aquarium announced Tuesday. A necropsy will be conducted to determine the cause of her death, per the AP.

"Her spirit touched us all, and we are heartbroken by her passing," Dr. Allison Tuttle, the aquarium's chief zoological officer, said in a news release. "Kharabali received the utmost care and love during her time with us, and we will always cherish the moments we shared." Kharabali is the third whale from Marineland in Niagara Falls, Ontario, to die after arriving at Mystic Aquarium. A male beluga named Havok died in August 2021, and a female named Havana died in February 2022. Both of those whales had underlying incurable conditions that led to their deaths, the aquarium said.

An inspection by the US Department of Agriculture after Havok's death found problems with the care of that whale and others, however. An aquarium spokeswoman said at the time that issues brought up in the inspection were being addressed. A third whale, Jetta, who became ill in 2021, is now thriving, according to the aquarium. Animal rights activists had sued unsuccessfully to block the whale's transport, saying a permit granted by the US Commerce secretary and the National Marine Fisheries Service didn't adequately address the potential harm to the belugas caused by being moved to the Connecticut aquarium.

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The whales, which ranged in age from 7 to 12 at the time of the transport, were born in captivity, and officials say they can't safely be released into the ocean. The aquarium said that it provided Kharabali with round-the-clock medical treatment and monitoring. "This loss weighs heavily on us," the aquarium said in its news release, "especially our animal care staff."

(More beluga whale stories.)

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