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With deep sadness, we announce that a beluga whale undergoing treatment in our intensive care facility at the Aquatic Animal Study Center habitat at Mystic Aquarium died early this morning.  

Despite receiving 24/7 intensive care over the past several months for multiple health issues and all life-saving efforts made earlier this morning, the female beluga passed in the company of the Mystic Aquarium team, committed to her care every minute of every day since her arrival. Veterinarians and animal care experts at Mystic Aquarium, with the support of veterinarians and animal husbandry members from other aquariums worldwide, devoted the full capacity of their expertise to the whale, providing round-the-clock medical treatment, testing, and 24-hour monitoring. The cause of her death will not be known until a full necropsy is completed.

The female whale was one of five belugas transported from MarineLand in Canada in May 2021 under a research permit. The belugas in the habitat here at Mystic Aquarium contribute to vital research that will help critically endangered beluga populations in the wild and preserve the species.

“Our team provided a continuum of world-class care to this whale for many months,” said Chief Zoological Officer, Allison Tuttle. “When an animal passes in the wild, it is the circle of life. When it happens at an Aquarium, with an animal you have grown to know, care for 24/7 and adore, it is devastating.”

Another beluga whale from MarineLand who joined the habitat in May died in August 2021 from a disease in its intestine that prevented it from processing nutrients.

Mystic Aquarium has addressed issues raised by the U.S. Department of Agriculture during a regulatory inspection last Fall. The inspection report cited the Aquarium in five areas, including communication between veterinarians and animal husbandry staff on the night the first whale died, handling of, and facilities accommodations for animals with vision challenges, shade for animals, and fluctuations in certain water quality variables.

“The Animal Welfare Act is vital to protecting wildlife and animals under human care,” said Dr. Stephen M. Coan, President and CEO of Mystic Aquarium. “Inspections, investigations when an animal dies, and accreditation processes are essential learning tools to advance the care and welfare of animals. We are constantly seeking to evolve and learn in our mission to provide the best possible care for animals.”

Mystic Aquarium has a robust veterinary team, welcoming five full-time veterinarians, three veterinary technicians, and approximately twenty other staff in the past several months. The organization has also established three shifts of animal care and new operating procedures for communication, handling of animals with vision issues, and facility upgrades.

The team at Mystic Aquarium continues to be endlessly grateful for all the public support and compassion for our dedicated and heartbroken staff members. As an organization, we are committed to delivering world-class care to all animals in our care and devoted to our mission to inspire people to care for and protect our ocean planet through conservation, education, and research.

There are six other whales under care at Mystic Aquarium. One of the animals remains in the intensive care unit, while the other five are healthy and residing in the Arctic Coast habitat.

“I want to thank our veterinary care staff, the many consulting veterinarians from around the world, our animal care team, and so many in our community who work so hard to care for our animals,” Coan said. “The loss of an animal is devastating to our team and indicative of the challenges that we face in advancing research for the well-being and survival of beluga whales in the wild.”

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