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5 whales came to a Connecticut aquarium in 2021. 3 have now died

Five beluga whales swim together in an acclimation pool after arriving at Mystic Aquarium, Saturday, May 15, 2021 in Mystic, Conn. The whales were imported to Mystic Aquarium from Canada for research on the endangered mammals.
Jason Decrow
/
AP
Five beluga whales swim together in an acclimation pool after arriving at Mystic Aquarium, Saturday, May 15, 2021 in Mystic, Conn. The whales were imported to Mystic Aquarium from Canada for research on the endangered mammals.

A 9-year-old beluga whale at Mystic Aquarium named Kharabali has died, marking the third death among five whales that were transported there from Canada in 2021.

Kharabali began swimming abnormally in November, and “her strange behavior continued to progress.” She was eventually moved to the intensive care facility at the aquarium's Aquatic Animal Study Center and died Monday, the aquarium announced Tuesday.

A necropsy will be conducted to determine the cause of her death.

“Her spirit touched us all, and we are heartbroken by her passing. Kharabali received the utmost care and love during her time with us, and we will always cherish the moments we shared,” Dr. Allison Tuttle, the chief zoological officer, said in a news release.

Kharabali is the third whale from Marineland in Niagara Falls, Ontario, to die after arriving at Mystic Aquarium. A male beluga named Havok died in August 2021, and a female name Havana died in February of 2022.

Both of those whales had underlying incurable conditions that led to their deaths, the aquarium said.

An inspection by the U.S. Department of Agriculture after Havoc's death found problems with the care of that whale and others. An aquarium spokeswoman said at the time that issues brought up in the inspection were being addressed.

A third whale, Jetta, who became ill in 2021, is now thriving, according to the aquarium.

Animal rights activists had sued unsuccessfully to block the whale's transport, saying a permit granted by the U.S. Commerce secretary and the National Marine Fisheries Service didn’t adequately address the potential harm to the belugas caused by being moved to the Connecticut aquarium.

The whales, which ranged in age from 7 to 12 at the time of the transport, were born in captivity, and officials say they cannot safely be released into the ocean.

The aquarium said that it provided Kharabali with round-the-clock medical treatment and monitoring.

“This loss weighs heavily on us,” the aquarium said in its news release, “especially our animal care staff.”

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