Beluga Whale Born Last Month at Georgia Aquarium Dies

Beluga whale Maris and her newborn calf are closely observed by Georgia Aquarium animal care and veterinary staff during the first few hours after the calf’s birth. (PHOTO CREDIT: Georgia Aquarium)
Beluga whale Maris and her newborn calf are closely observed by Georgia Aquarium animal care and veterinary staff during the first few hours after the calf’s birth. (PHOTO CREDIT: Georgia Aquarium)

From the first moments a baby beluga whale is born in captivity, veterinarians cautiously track the animal’s health and watch for particular milestones that signal healthy development.

“The first breath of life, and the calf being able to achieve that by swimming to the surface on its own, is one of those first milestones,” Tonya Clauss, director of animal health at the Georgia Aquarium, said in a YouTube video released after a baby beluga whale was born there last month. “We were just thrilled to see that take place. Bonding with Maris the way the calf has done is another big milestone and we are seeing very good evidence that that continues.”

Despite the early signs of progress for the unnamed, 126-pound calf — born in the early hours of Sunday, May 10 — the optimism did not last.

The calf began nursing from her mother, Maris, five days after birth, but the aquarium staff noticed the animal “was not gaining sufficient weight,” according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

The newborn was only a single pound above her birth weight as of last week, even as her handlers supplemented her diet with formula mimicking beluga milk, the AJC reported.

On Friday, a mere 26 days after her birth, the calf died, according to statement released by the aquarium.

“…in the early morning hours of June 5, the calf began showing signs of lethargy and needed assistance to swim,” the statement said. “While next to her mother and in the arms of her dedicated caregivers, the calf took her last breath, and her heart stopped just after 7:00 a.m.”

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SOURCE: The Washington Post, Peter Holley