Tag Archives: baby beluga

Let’s compare two recent baby beluga stories

Beluga Whale Maris and Baby at the Georgia Aquarium

Maris and calf at the Georgia Aquarium, unattributed photo from Georgia Aquarium Facebook page







Two recent news stories.  Both involved beluga whale calves.  The first involved the birth and premature death of a calf born to Maris, a beluga whale who arrived at the Georgia Aquarium in 2005.

I have heard that the baby beluga was a full forty pounds underweight at birth.  Born underweight, not healthy.  Lived only five days.

Baby beluga whale, now at the Alaska Sea Life Center

Baby beluga whale rescued – can’t she be kept in a sea pen? Photo by Associated Press.

The second story involves a different baby beluga whale.  A baby beluga born in the wild.  And even though she was separated from her mother and cannot survive without nursing, this baby seems to be doing better than Maris’ baby.  Even with all those experts and blood samples taken from Maris’ baby.  But that’s another post for another day.

This second baby beluga whale was found in Alaska’s Bristol Bay, separated from its mother, perhaps in a storm.  A baby beluga whale nurses from the time it is born until it is approximately two years old.  But this baby beluga, at only two to three days old, somehow survived separation, however brief, from its mother.  And even being separated from its mother, this baby was healthier than the one born to Maris, in captivity.

Now, you may be thinking that it’s not fair to draw far-reaching conclusions based on two examples, where there are many variables, far more than any of us knows.  And I think you’d be right.

But I’m not drawing any conclusions based on these two examples.  I’m just relaying two stories.  I already know that captivity is inherently cruel, that captivity of these sentient creatures, even in a habitat larger than the far-too-small one at the Georgia Aquarium, is wrong.

I’m also sending out a plea to those in control of the wild baby beluga to put on your thinking caps to find ways to help the chances of her being released.

But two stories.  One of a little calf born to captivity that didn’t have much of a future.  But who died before she could live out that destiny.  The other of another calf, now destined for a lifetime of captivity.  Unless someone gives him access to the ocean, tries to find the little wild one’s mother and family now now now, cares for him in a sea pen where he can retain some ability, however slight, to communicate, he will end up, like Maris, being seen as someone’s broodmare or, like Beethoven, Maris’ deceased calf’s father, a stud.

Please, captivity industry.  Do better for this little rescued butterball than keeping him in a landlocked concrete box where it is less likely that he will be found to be releaseable.  Keep him in a sea pen near where he was found.  Listen for his family.  Let him try to communicate with them.

Thank you to all the workers and volunteers who work for these animals, trying to save them and restore them to freedom.

Baby beluga at Georgia Aquarium dies – despite Maris’ having “stood up to her end of the bargain”

I am almost speechless. So I’ll be brief.

Beluga Whale Maris and Baby at the Georgia Aquarium

Maris and “her end of the bargain” at the Georgia Aquarium, unattributed photo from Georgia Aquarium facebook page

Georgia Aquarium’s official statement, as quoted in the Atlanta Journal & Constitution, notes that the baby beluga whale, born on May 18, 2012, in the Georgia Aquarium, died today, despite Maris having “stood up to her end of the bargain.”

What bargain was that, Georgia Aquarium?

I’m just curious as hell. What was Maris’ bargain with you?

I have to say it again: Billy Hurley, Chief Zoological Officer at the Georgia Aquarium, said today, when interviewed about the death at the Georgia Aquarium of the baby beluga whale, “Maris stood up to her end of the bargain…”

The crassness of that statement – while not truly surprising, since Mr. Hurley doesn’t know the difference between dolphins, on the one hand, and dogs or horses, on the other – crossed the line.

What line is that?

It’s the line that reveals that the people who are entrusted with the care of these highly intelligent and sentient beings are incapable of appreciating this intelligence and sentience. It’s the line that reveals that the Georgia Aquarium views its dolphins, beluga whales and whale sharks as merely assets to grow a bottom line. It’s the line that reveals the aquariums’ willingness to tell only part of the story to preserve that “asset”. It’s the line that reveals the call for an immediate rehabilitation and release of these creatures to their god-given life in the wild.

If you had any doubt about these issues before, I trust that Mr. Hurley’s revealing comment got through to you and that you will sign a petition, sponsored by the Born Free Foundation, to end captivity for whales and dolphins.

So, to Mr. Hurley. Back to that bargain that you struck with Maris, what did you promise in return? Another chance to reproduce a baby that would either live its life in captivity, or die as your organization predicted it would? More captivity? Or did you promise something more lofty, like, you would continue to feed her in a small tank of salitified chlorinated artificially-cooled water?

That must be comforting to Maris, in this time of a mother’s grief.

I know, you and I are on the other side of that line, so I could stop there. But then Mr. Hurley said, after complimenting Maris on holding up her end of the bargain, “We will not give up.” Another question, Mr. Hurley. Not give up on what? Having Maris impregnated again, when you know the odds are against the baby’s, or babies’, survival?

Just sign the Born Free Foundation petition to end whale and dolphin captivity. You know he’s wrong.