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3rd beluga dies in captivity at Mystic Aquarium

Tragedy strikes again at Connecticut’s Mystic Aquarium, as the team mourns the death of Kharabali, a nine-year-old beluga whale, who had begun showing worrying signs last November. This unfortunate incident marks the third death out of five whales transported in 2021 from Marineland, Niagara Falls, Canada, to Mystic Aquarium.

Kharabali died despite efforts by the intensive care unit to keep her healthy. The aquarium said it would carry out an autopsy to determine the cause of death, expressing its deep sadness at the death of Kharabali, loved by everyone at the aquarium.

Kharabali is the third beluga whale to die in a group of five collected in 2021 from Marineland water park in Niagara Falls, Ontario, to die after arriving at Mystic Aquarium.

Havok, a male beluga whale who died in August 2021, and Havana, a female beluga whale who died in February 2022, were both declared by the aquarium to be suffering from incurable diseases that ultimately caused their deaths. Jetta, a whale that was part of the 2021 group and fell ill, is reportedly recovering and thriving, according to the aquarium.

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The deaths of Havok, Havana and Kharabali highlight the wider problem of whales kept in captivity. Many advocates argue that captive confinement can lead to a number of negative effects such as boredom, frustration and even signs of physical stress like dorsal fin collapse.

These concerns are reflected in notable cases such as the death of Kiska at Marineland, dubbed the “world’s loneliest whale”, last March. Kohana is a 20-year-old orca from Loro Parque zoo, and Tilikum the orca from SeaWorld’s “Blackfish”.

The transfer of belugas from Marineland to Mystic Aquarium has sparked controversy. A Delaware animal rights organization claimed that the transfer would cause physical and mental damage to the animals. Authorities argued that the belugas were bred in captivity and could not be safely released back into the ocean. Following the beluga’s death, the U.S. Department of Agriculture carried out an inspection. The aquarium reported that the problems had been resolved.

Animal rights activists call for an end to whale breeding and captivity programs.

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