Death of whale raises questions at Georgia Aquarium - CBS46 News

Death of whale raises questions at Georgia Aquarium

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Officials with the Georgia Aquarium say they plan to perform an animal autopsy on the beluga whale that suddenly died Thursday. This latest death leaves the aquarium with just two whales on exhibit.

The whale, named Maris, was 21-years-old and had given birth to two calves who both died. An aquarium spokesperson said no one from the facility would be answering any questions. In fact, several security guards stood around the outside of the aquarium Friday to try and keep media away. However, the aquarium posted a statement on its website:

“Veterinary and animal care experts perform routine exams on all of our animals and at Maris’ most recent exam, she showed all signs of a health beluga whale.  She has been eating normally and engaging in enrichment and interaction with our two other beluga whales.”

This latest death is drawing plenty of criticism from animal rights advocates. 

“Captivity is a morbid business. Dolphins and whales do not fare well in captivity. They don’t live as long in captivity,” said Martha Brock from Georgia Animal Rights and Protection, a group that believes the beluga whale program should be eliminated. Brock says this death is a reminder of how it puts ocean mammals at risk for human entertainment.

“Maris was a young beluga whale who born in captivity and exploited her entire life,” said Brock.

The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, also known as PETA, was also critical of the Georgia Aquarium’s captivity program for beluga whales.

“Like many marine mammals, beluga whales communicate by sonar and are often driven mad by the reverberations that bounce off their tank walls,” said PETA spokesperson Ashley Byrne.

In August, the Georgia Aquarium went to federal court to fight for a permit to bring 18 more captive beluga whales into U.S. facilities, arguing they are safer here than in the wild.

Aquarium representative Scott Higley testified that “beluga whales are in trouble. They’re listed as near threatened. Some populations are critically endangered. Our scientists are leading an effort to try and find out why that is.”

There’s no word on when the results from the animal autopsy will be released. 

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