The beluga whale born at the Oceanográfico dies twenty-five days after its birth

Nov 27, 2006

 Despite the efforts of veterinary surgeons and carers to prevent it and the constant vigilance of mother and baby, the beluga whale born last 2nd November and for the first time in a European Zoological Centre, died at 12:15 today Monday, 27th November.


The exact reasons for the death are still unknown, although a team of vets are studying the case along with experts from other countries. In any case, in the last hours, a sudden imbalance in the different blood parameters was detected. This episode is very possibly a consequence of the very difficult adaptation of the young beluga whale to artificial feeding which was given to it as a last resort due to the inexperience of the mother “Yulka”, and to the motor difficulties that the baby presented; it never managed to feed directly from its mother. The lack of direct milk hindered suitable development and favoured the appearance of infectious and metabolic illnesses.

Whatever the case, from the moment that the birth was certified, it was already known that the probabilities of survival of the little one were very slim. In the natural environment and among babies of first time mothers, like “Yulka”, the mortality rate of the recent born is 58% during the first months of life.

Despite the prognosis, the workers of the Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias’ Oceanográfico were devastated after all the hopes that this unique event had aroused. Huge efforts were made by the experts of this Centre, as they needed to watch over and feed the baby constantly. They received help from different Centres of Canada and the United State who have faced similar problems and who had warned about the enormous difficulties involved in saving this example.

At the moment, and in order to try to make up for the loss of the little one, the carers of the mother have redoubled their attentions to “Yulka”. For several days they will attend to her behaviour and will reunite her with “Kairo”, the male who accompanies her in the installation. The “Arctic” building, that has remained closed to the public since the birth, will reopen immediately.

Lastly, and despite the unfortunate but to some extent expected outcome, it should be stressed that the gestation and birth of this cetaceous animal has been a huge landmark in the conservation of beluga whales and has allowed us to obtain infinite data for understanding the biology of these animals and the reproductive success of this species in this and other Centres. Moreover, it has shown that the examples present in the Oceanográfico receive the best of attention. The centre’s experts hope that the experience acquired by the mother during this period may prove useful so that maybe the next time the development of a future baby will not present the difficulties observed in this case.