Another Captive Beluga Dies Suddenly, and Now Her Mother is Sick

Another captive beluga died suddenly last week. Qila, who was born in 1995 at the Vancouver Aquarium, was the first beluga ever conceived and born in captivity in Canada. She joins a growing number of recent deaths that have reignited calls to end keeping belugas in captivity.

According to the aquarium, no known cause of death has been discovered.

More concerning is that her 29-year-old mother, Aurora, who is now the only beluga at the aquarium is also exhibiting the same symptoms Qila did before passing. She’s also refusing to eat. Aurora is being constantly monitored while her caregivers try to figure out exactly what’s making her ill, but only time will tell if she will recover.

While CEO John Nightingale said that some who are on loan to facilities in the U.S. would be coming back, Qila’s death has raised yet more opposition to keeping them in captivity.

“Qila’s death is extremely sad but the fact she spent 21 years in a concrete pool instead of being free in the open ocean is tragic,” said Peter Fricker, a spokesperson for the Vancouver Humane Society, which is calling on the aquarium to end its cetacean shows, breeding program and loan agreements with other aquariums.

According to the Vancouver Sun, Sarah Kirby-Jung, the head of Vancouver’s park board is going to formally propose bringing the issue of captive cetaceans to voters during the next civic election in 2018.

“That sparked public debate,” Kirby-Jung said. “I think it’s important that we listen to the public and provide an opportunity to do that. The (referendum) question would be along the lines of, if residents of Vancouver would support having cetaceans at the Vancouver Aquarium.”

While the aquarium has continued to defend keeping captive cetaceans, there has been widespread public opposition. Many of the myths perpetuated by the aquarium were recently exposed in the documentary Vancouver Aquarium Uncovered.

Hopefully, the tragedy of another death will help inspire people to support phasing out captive beluga programs, and to support changes at the aquarium that will actually benefit marine mammals, like the work of its marine mammal rescue center.

Unfortunately, with a low success rate for breeding and a captive population that won’t sustain itself without new babies, aquariums are going to have to look to the wild to keep their exhibits open. Breeding and loan agreements between facilities will continue to lead to moving them around on a whim.

True conservation efforts aren’t focused on sustaining captive populations, they’re devoted to habitat protection, and ensuring no more wild whales or dolphins suffer at either an individual or population level as a result of human activities, which include more wild captures.

For more info on how to help whales and dolphins who are currently being held captive, check out the Whale Sanctuary Project.

Photo credit: Thinkstock


Melania P
Melania P2 years ago

How I hate aquariums; how can they be allowed to have such big, aquatic, magnificent animals in captivity! And humans call themselves civilized?

Janet B
Janet B2 years ago


Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Fred L.
Fred L2 years ago

Some documentarian should create "Whitefish," the equivalent of "Blackfish," which highlighted the plight of orcas in marine parks like SeaWorld. It's tragic that marine parks continue to enslave marine mammals, under the guise of education, just for financial gain. The public needs to be educated to boycott these marine parks, aquariums and most zoos. ~~The love of money is the root of all evil.~~Timothy 6:10

Miss D.
Shari F2 years ago

I have just read that the mother, Aurora, has also died. This means that Vancouver Aquarium no longer has any belugas. However, they still own other belugas that are housed in other aquaria whilst Vancouver tries to EXPAND its cetacean keeping facilities. More info on this link:

Joan E.
Joan E2 years ago

Nicole, your last message posted, so the Belgians are still perfectly welcome. That happens to everyone's comments sometimes. Wishing good things for Belgians and Belugas.

Joan E.
Joan E2 years ago

This is so sad.

Robert N.
Rob Chloe Sam N2 years ago

These animals shouldn't be in captivity, John Nightingale needs to be charged with animal cruelty and sent to prison.

Terri S.
Terri S2 years ago

How many more have to die before humans get their heads out of their asses??

Philip Watling
Philip Watling2 years ago

Whales should not be in captivity! Heck, in the wild they can roam thousands of miles!