British Columbia

Qila the beluga dies at Vancouver Aquarium

She was the first beluga to be conceived and born in a Canadian aquarium. She was also the first beluga born in a Canadian aquarium to give birth to a calf.
Petty Officer First Class Rob Majore, a clearance diver with the Esquimalt-based Royal Canadian Navy Fleet Diving Unit, pauses at an underwater viewing window as beluga whale Qila swims at the Vancouver Aquarium in Vancouver in 2015. The whale died on Nov. 16, 2016. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

Qila — the first beluga whale conceived and born in captivity at a Canadian aquarium — has died at the age of 21, the Vancouver Aquarium has confirmed.

The cause of death has not been determined and a necropsy was expected to take place on Wednesday.

"She was a delight for our team of staff and volunteers every single day — always the first to give us a wink, a little tail flap or a head bob in the morning," said the aquarium in a press release.

Outlived by her mother

Qila was born on July 23, 1995 to Aurora, which at the age of 29, is the only remaining beluga at the aquarium.

She was also the first beluga born in a Canadian aquarium to give birth to a calf of her own. Tiqa was born in 2008 but died three years later from pneumonia.

Aurora, Qila and Tiqa swim together at the Vancouver Aquarium in this photo from 2009. (CBC)

Qila's mother Aurora was from the Western Hudson Bay population of beluga whales. The average lifespan of a beluga from this population is 15 years in the wild but some have been known to live as long as 40 or 50 years, according to Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

The first beluga born in captivity in Canada was Tuaq, who was born in 1977, but conceived in the wild. Tuaq died four months later due to malnutrition and a bacterial infection.

He was the offspring of Kavna, who was pregnant when captured and taken to the aquarium, and an unknown wild beluga.

Corrections

  • A previous version of this story mistakenly said Qila was the first beluga born in captivity in a Canadian aquarium. In fact Qila was the first beluga conceived and born in a Canadian aquarium.
    Nov 17, 2016 7:18 AM PT

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