Three weeks after a beluga whale died at a Connecticut aquarium, a second whale is in failing health.
The two whales were part of a group of five whales moved from a location in Canada to Mystic Aquarium, a facility that specializes in beluga research.
In a Facebook post, Mystic said the ailing female whale is suffering from a number of health issues, including gastrointestinal issues and low white blood cell count.
“The veterinarian team continues to closely monitor the female beluga whale who has recently become ill,” Mystic wrote in its post. “At this time, there have been no significant changes in the beluga’s condition. Our team continues to dedicate the full capacity of its resources and expertise to help this whale recover.”
Mystic officials said veterinarians are exploring every treatment option available and have reached out to experts across the country to help.
The whales were moved in May from Marineland in Niagara Falls, Ontario. The male whale that died on August 6 had a preexisting gastrointestinal issue when it arrived, officials said.
Animal rights activists and environmentalists had attempted to block the move and are now raising red flags about the latest illness.
“I’m a little bit less shocked this morning than I was when Havok died,” Naomi Rose, a marine mammal scientist with the Animal Welfare Institute, told CT Insider. “But now there are so many questions.”
At the top of the list is whether Mystic officials knew about the illness prior to the move, or whether this happened after its arrival. Transporting large mammals can cause stress and anxiety and lead to medical issues.
The whales range in age from 7–12 and were all born in captivity in the Canadian facility, which has about 50 other whales. Mystic officials said the whales will be part of important research to benefit belugas in the wild.
“The belugas brought to Mystic were all born under human care, and therefore would not survive if released into the wild,” Mystic officials wrote. “Mystic Aquarium is the best possible location for these animals: a world-class facility with decades of marine mammal experience and a top-level understanding of beluga health and husbandry where they have the opportunity to contribute to research that can save endangered populations.”
But Rose and other activists aren’t so sure.
“When [the male whale] died, Mystic said the other four were in good health,” Rose told the Associated Press. “Three weeks later, one of them is probably dying. And if it’s something that happened in the last three weeks, well what the hell is that? And if it’s something that she was already suffering from when she came from Marineland, then she wasn’t healthy three weeks ago, so they just outright lied.”
Rose wants the National Marine Fisheries Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and others to launch an investigation and for the remaining whales to be examined by an independent veterinarian.
Mystic hosted an online auction last week and raised $3.4 million to be used for the whales’ care.