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    Sunday, March 03, 2024

    Another whale critically ill at Mystic Aquarium

    Mystic ― Mystic Aquarium has announced that one of three remaining beluga whales it received in 2021 from a Canadian facility is now critically ill.

    “Sadly, it is with a heavy heart that we must share the news of the critical condition of another one of our beloved beluga whales who joined us from Marineland,” said an announcement posted to the aquarium’s social media platforms on Friday.

    The aquarium said that it is remaining hopeful and staff is providing around the clock care and exhausting every possible option to treat the whale.

    "Our dedicated animal care team is currently putting in tireless efforts, and words cannot adequately capture the depth of their dedication. Our mission is rooted in an unwavering commitment to animal welfare,“ Meagan Seacor, vice president of external relations, said in an email Tuesday.

    Seacor continued, “Whether it's rehabilitating an endangered sea turtle or providing assistance to distressed belugas at another facility, our rescue initiatives are at the heart of our operations. The support from the community is indispensable in sustaining these endeavors, and we're just very grateful to everyone who has written in to show their support during this critical time.”

    The illness is the latest in a string of health problems that have plagued five belugas since their May 2021 arrival in Mystic from Marineland, a themed zoo and amusement park in Niagara Falls, Canada.

    Within one year of arrival, two of the five animals had died — Havok in August 2021 and Havana in February 2022 ― but a third, Jetta, has returned to the main beluga whale habitat after more than a year in critical condition.

    Marineland has come under intense scrutiny and criticism by animal welfare organizations and government agencies for the condition of its animals, including the poor health and inadequate habitats of the approximately 37 beluga whales currently in its care.

    The current population of beluga whales at the Canadian aquarium is down from a high of 54, with 14 dying in just the two-year period between 2019 and 2021.

    Mystic Aquarium has also faced ongoing criticism over the transfer of the whales and the deaths of Havok and Havana, including a report critical of Havok’s care by the United States Department of Agriculture that resulted in five citations.

    In response to the news that another of the five imported whales was critically ill, the Washington D.C.-based Animal Welfare Institute released a statement by Dr. Naomi Rose, senior scientist in marine mammal biology for the institute, who said all the Marineland beluga whales likely have preexisting health conditions, including the five accepted by Mystic, and any research would have little relevance for whale conservation.

    The aquarium had planned to use the whales as part of its ongoing research to help preserve them in the wild.

    “The solution is not to ‘rescue’ them by sending them somewhere else; transport is extremely stressful for whales and dolphins, especially if they are already sick,” the statement said.

    Rose went on to say that Mystic and other aquariums should be sending experts to the troubled Canadian facility to help address the health and welfare of the animals instead of relocating them.

    “This is what Mystic should have done from the outset,” the statement read.

    Mystic Aquarium noted in its post that it had sent researchers to Marineland to assist in addressing the numerous issues the Canadian facility has encountered, including poor water quality, and animal deaths.

    A devastating November 2021 report on conditions at Marineland by Dr. Ingrid Visser, a cetacean expert, prepared for One Voice, an international animal rights group, documented extensive violations of Canadian animal welfare laws and recommended, among other possible actions, that the facility’s marine mammals be “moved as soon as possible.”

    Mystic Aquarium’s post concluded by saying it would continue to provide updates on the whale’s condition, and it appreciated the community’s support, adding that messages of support for the staff can be sent to animalinfo@mysticaquarium.org.

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