Today, Malisa, Beth, Julie and I visited Vancouver Aquarium for the first time and made sure to attend the 2:15 beluga whale show. I walked to the beluga pool around 1:40 and noticed 2 whales swimming in the larger pool while one whale was secluded in a smaller pool toward the back. I didn't think much of it but I did snap a few photos.
The whale show lasted about 20 minutes, which seemed short. The 2 whales repeatedly swam to the barrier between the pools where the other whale was kept. After the show, I asked a VanAqua employee what the whale's name was and why she was secluded, she stated the whale's name was Kavna and she was in the smaller pool for observation. The whale looked ill and was floating on its side.
While shooting a few more photos, Kavna was on her side or upside-down a majority of the time. She swam toward the barrier and it looked like she began hitting her face against it. I heard a trainer calling for help and saw others rushing to the area. When they arrived to the smaller pool, they jumped in to help. Immediately, other employees started roping off the area and asking people to move toward the penguin show.
By this time, Kavna was moving very little. We saw other employees bringing a whale harness and what looked like a wetsuit. They also began turning orange wheels, which either drained the tank or brought the whale toward ther surface of the water. The trainers also turned Kavna upright.
We were pretty intrigued at the situation and knew something was wrong with the Kavna. We found out a few hours later, via twitter, that she had actually died while we were there. We read VanAqua's blog post and learned Kavna was 46 years old and well past the normal life span of a beluga whale (25-30 years). We are sad for the trainers and medical staff who cared for Kavna, this must be a difficult time for them.
I previously had photos posted of Kavna's last moments and the aquarium staff caring for her. This post has gotten more media attention than I expected. I have declined opportunity to be interviewed and have the photos used on television and in newspapers out of respect for the aquarium's staff, some who have cared for Kavna for 30+ years.
I appreciate the interest in my photos from news organizations, but I decided to take the photos down after realizing they were being used in a way that viewed the aquarium negatively, which is not what I intended to do.