Thoughts on happenings and issues around the Vancouver waterfront by Nelson Quiroga
Sunday, November 27, 2016
Aurora and Qila
Aurora, Vancouver's beloved 30 year old beluga has died and this marks the end of a tragic era for the captive belugas in the Vancouver Aquarium. Less than two weeks earlier Qila, Aurora's first born, and the first beluga ever born in captivity, also died and she was only 21. In 2010 another of Aurora's children born in captivity, Nala, died at the age of one. There was another of Qila's siblings born in captivity named Tuvaq but he died in 1995 at the age of three and Qila's own daughter Tiqa, granddaughter of Aurora, also born in captivity, died in 2011 at the age of three.
Other Vancouver Aquarium belugas include; Kavna, who died in 2012 at the age of 46 after being here since 1976. Already pregnant when she arrived, she gave birth to a calf named Tuaq who only lived for a few months. There was also Nanuq, the father of Qila, who died in 2015 at the age of 31 while on a breeding loan to the infamous SeaWorld. Nanuq also fathered three other belugas, Grayson, Qinu, and Atla who are on loan to other American aquariums. Imaq, the father of Tuvaq and Nala is still alive but is on a breeding loan to SeaWorld. Finally there is Allua, who was never able to conceive while living in Vancouver, and who is now also on a breeding loan to SeaWorld. I'm sure some of these five remaining belugas will be returning to Vancouver to take up residence in the now empty beluga pool.
Beluga pool at Vancouver Aquarium
In 1976 Kavna was captured in the waters near Churchill Manitoba as was Allua in 1985 and Aurora in 1990 but after 1996 this practise was stopped and the Vancouver Aquarium has since embarked on a captive breeding program to supply it with whales for what it euphemistically calls "research & education" programs. While the belugas undoubtedly delight audiences with their antics and beguiling facial expressions, and are the love of their trainers and handlers, it's all to easy to ignore the fact these poor creatures are being held prisoner. Watching the whales "pacing" about in their repetitious swimming patterns clearly illustrates that no matter how ambitious the Aquarium's plans are for bigger whale pools they will never be big enough to give the animals enough room to freely swim about. I have more room when I swim in the Aquatic Centre or Kits Pool never mind out in English Bay and I'm certainly no whale.
Belugas in Churchill
There's a disturbing pattern emerging here that clearly illustrates beluga whales (or any other whales for that matter) do not last long in aquariums and we should be putting an end to these breeding programs. It's one thing to look after an injured cetacean and keep them in captivity if they can't be rehabilitated but it's not okay to deliberately bring them into the world and keep them in captivity just for our own amusement. These are extremely intelligent, sociable creatures, and they belong in the wild. If we really care about them we would concentrate on preserving their natural habitat not creating an artificial one. It's time we said hello to them in the wild and goodbye to them in captivity.