After a 5-month investigation, the cause of death of Vancouver Aquarium’s two belugas, Aurora and Qila, was found to be due to a mysterious toxic substance, passed to them by food, water or human interference.
21-year old Qila and 29-year old Aurora died suddenly within 9 days of each other. The $100,000 investigation involved dozens of veterinary pathologists, toxicologists, genome specialists, medical doctors, and field research scientists but the investigators failed to identify the killer toxin. A reason for this could be that some toxins persist for a limited amount of time in the blood stream, thus are difficult to identify.
To protect their three remaining cetaceans and reduce the risk of further infections, Vancouver Aquarium has introduced an enhanced food-screening process, removed vegetation adjacent to the habitat, overhauled mechanical water treatment systems and introduced a new regime of real-time testing for incoming and recirculating water. Additionally, the aquarium has updated security around the habitat to reduce the threat of intentional poisoning, or other criminal behaviour.
Photo: Jonathan Hayward