A beluga whale named Nico died this week at SeaWorld San Antonio, where he was being temporarily housed while the Georgia Aquarium underwent renovations. This marks the third time in the last three years that a beluga whale from the Georgia Aquarium has died.
The cause of Nico’s death has not yet been determined, but according to aquarium officials, he was already ailing when he was obtained from a Mexican aquarium along with another beluga whale, Gasper, who died in January 2007. The aquarium’s two surviving whales, Maris and Natasha, are on loan from the New York Aquarium. A third beluga whale from New York, Marina, also died in 2007.
In a chirpy news release announcing the arrival of Maris, Natasha, and Marina in 2005, the aquarium expressed the hope that “we soon [will] have baby beluga whales.”
In the same news release, the aquarium announced the arrival of Ralph and Norton, two whale sharks who—you guessed it—are now dead. Seeing a trend here?
Instead of swimming freely in the sea, animals at aquariums are relegated to a world that’s measured in feet instead of fathoms. Beluga whales are extremely social animals who—when left to their own devices—play, chase each other, and interact in extended pods. They have been called “sea canaries” because of their complex vocalizations, which they use to communicate with each other.
In captivity, these whales have little room for exercise and are cut off from their natural social groups. While they might not have to face natural enemies, the stress of captivity is apparently the scariest “predator” of all.
Written by Alisa Mullins