The Vancouver Aquarium says a five-month investigation into the death of two beluga whales last year has concluded a toxin was responsible.
The Aquarium says it has not been able to determine the exact substance that killed Qila and Aurora in November.
However, it says it believes the toxin was “likely introduced by food, water, or through human interference.”
“The food that was fed to animals has been extensively analyzed at various independent laboratories, and nothing was found wrong with that,” says Vancouver Aquarium Head Veterinarian Dr. Martin Haulena.
“That food is well accounted for.”
Haulena says the possibility that someone intentionally did this to the whales is disturbing.
“It is hard for me to imagine that anyone who actually loves animals and cares for animals would actually stoop to this.”
But Haulena says sadly, activists in other countries have taken extreme actions.
In the wake of the deaths, the Aquarium says it has brought in new measures to “test, evaluate, and reduce risks in the Arctic habitat.”
Those include a major security update to monitor the perimeter of the pools in the case of any potential human interference.
They also include a new food screening process and the removal of vegetation next to the habitat, as well as an overhaul of water treatment systems and new real-time water testing.
Qila died suddenly in November after beginning to display abdominal discomfort, cramping, and nausea. Just two weeks later, her mother Aurora died after showing the same symptoms.
The pair were the last belugas living at the facility, but a false killer whale, a Pacific white-sided dolphin, and a harbour porpoise remain as a part of the Aquarium’s Marine Mammal Rescue program.
However, the Aquarium has announced plans to upgrade the Arctic exhibit and return other belugas currently housed at U.S. facilities back to Vancouver ahead of a 2029 phase-out of its cetacean program.
That controversial proposal may face challenges, as the Vancouver Park Board voted back in March to move towards a ban on any cetaceans in facilities on Park Board property.
With files form Charmaine de Silva