|Kavna and Qila, beluga whales, are seen in this photo from the Vancouver Aquarium's Facebook page. Kavna, 46, died on Monday, August 6, 2012, at 3 p.m., officials said. (Vancouver Aquarium/Facebook/QMI AGENCY)
VANCOUVER -- Vancouver Aquarium plans on restoring its beluga population after two of the popular animals died within the past year, the first to infection and the second to cancer-related problems.
But that won’t happen until at least 2016, when the facility’s new Arctic habitat will be completed, said aquarium manager Clint Wright.
“We have other belugas on loan in other facilities, those males that we sent out have been successful in reproducing so there’s a number of calves out there, at some point we’ll bring some of those animals back,” he said.
Kavna, 46, was the latest to die on Monday afternoon following several days of treatment for problems with her reproductive tract and lesions caused by cancer.
The beluga was the most ancient accredited-aquarium whale of its kind, outliving the majority of her wild counterparts, whose lives typically range between 25 to 30 years.
Known as the queen of the Vancouver Aquarium beluga pool, Kavna will live on through song and textbooks referencing her. She’s appeared on Canadian postage stamps and more than 30 million people visited her during 36 years in captivity.
“She was probably the biggest, whitest beluga out there. I think if you look almost in any journal or periodical there will be a picture of Kavna, because she’s the archetypical beluga,” Wright said.
Two belugas, mom Aurora and daughter Qila, survive in the whale exhibit.
Three-year-old Tiqa died last September after staff noticed abnormalities in her blood and eventually found an infection.
It’s unclear how the losses would affect the remaining whales. But Wright said it’s certain they’d be at least aware of their missing companions.