MYSTIC, Conn. (AP) – One of five beluga whales acquired from an aquarium in Canada after a legal fight with animal rights activists has died at its new home in Connecticut.
Officials at Mystic Aquarium, which specializes in beluga research, said in a Facebook post that the male whale had arrived in May with a preexisting medical condition. It died Friday, despite “round-the-clock medical treatment, testing, and 24-hour monitoring,” the aquarium said in a statement.
“While he had shown signs of improvement from a gastrointestinal condition, we are deeply saddened to share that he passed away (Friday) morning,” the aquarium said. “This is a devastating loss for our staff and for the community, especially the animal care team who works closely with the belugas.”
The whale arrived in May with four others from Marineland in Niagara Falls, Ontario, after a lengthy battle to obtain permits from both the United States and Canada.
Connecticut-based Friends of Animals and other activists had sought to block the transport in a lawsuit last fall against the U.S. Commerce secretary and National Marine Fisheries Service, which had approved the research permit.
The group claimed the U.S. permit violated the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the National Environmental Policy Act because government officials did not adequately address the potential harm to the belugas from being moved to Mystic.
A federal judge in March declined to issue an injunction.
The whales, which range in age from 7 to 12, were born in captivity and left an overcrowded habitat with about 50 other whales to be at the center of important research designed to benefit belugas in the wild, aquarium officials said.