MYSTIC, Conn. (WTNH) — One of Mystic Aquarium’s signature beluga whales has passed away.
Three months ago, Mystic Aquarium undertook a major operation by bringing five Beluga whales from MarineLand in Canada, which has 47 animals.
“Although we brought those whales here for research purposes to help the wild whales, another aspect was to bring them here so they would get their own individual healthcare,” said Dr. Tracy Romano, Vice President of Biological Research & Chief Scientist at Mystic Aquarium.
On Friday, one of those whales died at the aquarium, which said it had a preexisting gastrointestinal condition.
“Our team is grieving,” said Dr. Romano.
The Animal Welfare Institute believes transporting the animal, which had ulcers, may have lead to its death.
“Transport for whales and dolphins is stressful as you might imagine from their point of view they’re stranded,” said Dr. Naomi Rose, PH.D, Marine Mammal Scientist at the Animal Welfare Institute.
“All of the veterinarians, two government agencies the U.S. side, the Canadian side all deemed that these animals were fit for transport and it was under a lot of scrutiny,” said Dr. Romano.
That scrutiny continues.
“I don’t understand how such a whale with such a preexisting condition would be considered appropriate for research,” said Dr. Rose.
Dr. Rose, who says she is not a veterinarian, is with the Animal Welfare Institute out of Washington D.C., which has been opposed to the transport of the whales to Mystic since the aquarium applied for the permit.
The group opposed the permit because while born in captivity in Canada, the group says they are descendants of a depleted Beluga population in Russia.
“That would sort of indicate to the Russians who are taking these whales ‘, oh the U.S. now will take captive-bred progeny from our whales here in Russia let’s keep trading,’” said Dr. Rose.
“This shouldn’t even be an issue because again the permit was granted and again passed scrutiny from two governments, the U.S. and Canada,” said Dr. Romano.
A necropsy is being performed at UConn to try to determine the exact cause of death.