Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Death of Vancouver Aquarium Beluga in Orlando SeaWorld Renews Breeding Debate

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Death of Vancouver Aquarium Beluga in Orlando SeaWorld Renews Breeding Debate

Article excerpt

Beluga death renews breeding debate

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VANCOUVER - The death of a beluga whale loaned by the Vancouver Aquarium to Orlando SeaWorld for breeding purposes is renewing the debate over whether cetaceans should be bred in captivity.

SeaWorld officials said Nanuq died Thursday at the estimated age of 31 or 32. While the cause of death is not yet known, he had been undergoing treatment for an infection caused by a broken jaw that occurred in an encounter with other animals.

"The conversation has obviously been brought back to the table," said Vancouver Park Board commissioner Michael Wiebe.

"Nanuq was someone who I used to see as a kid, because I was a Vancouver Aquarium member. It's important, and so we will look at how it was being treated and what the practices are and what we could do to make it better."

He said the board expects to begin discussions next week with the aquarium, with a decision on the bylaw surrounding the keeping of cetaceans in captivity expected later this year.

The board voted in November against ending the program allowing the cetacean population to multiply naturally at the popular tourist attraction, instead deciding to hold more consultations.

Vancouver Aquarium is currently undergoing a $100 million expansion that will include the installation of new, larger whale tanks. The aquarium has said it does not have an active breeding program, but that copulation between whales occurs at times.

The aquarium now owns eight belugas, four of which remain in Orlando SeaWorld. Two are in Georgia Aquarium, and the other two, Aurora and Qila, who is Nanuq's daughter, live in Vancouver's aquarium.

Nanuq was transferred to Orlando SeaWorld in 1997 and moved several times to breed at other facilities. The beluga was a popular attraction for SeaWorld, with celebrities including Will Ferrell posing for photos with the large whale. …

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