Aurora had been captured from the wild in 1990, from the waters surrounding the province of Manitoba in Canada, before being sent to the Vancouver Aquarium where she sadly passed away. Qila wasn't Aurora's only baby: the beluga also gave birth to Tuvaq in 2002 and Nala only very recently. Tragically, the two creatures both died before her. Aurora was the last whale in captivity at the Vancouver Aquarium.The team at the aquarium announced her death on their Facebook page, adding:
To our team, Aurora was a part of our family and her loss is absolutely heartbreaking. The marine mammal care team working night and day to care for her are our true heroes, even if we lost the battle.
It's easy to forget Aurora's living conditions in the pool where she would have spent the rest of her life. Naomi Rose, marine biologist for the Animal Welfare Institute, tells The Dodo:
As we have noted for years now, belugas do not fare well in captivity. These Vancouver deaths are not unusual, unfortunately — belugas do not breed well and often die young in captivity. Both Aurora and Qila were less than 30 years of age, which is middle-aged for free-ranging belugas.
Marine mammals on the whole cope very badly with captivity - which goes against all their natural instincts - and can develop serious stereotypies.
The best known case - and also the most tragic - is undoubtedly that of Tilikum, a male orca who was snatched from his family in 1983, only to find himself prisoner at SeaWorld in Orlando. Gabriela Coperthwaite's film Blackfish tells the animal's story, from his capture to the death of his trainer, Dawn Branchea, drowned by Tilikum in the middle of a performance. The controversial documentary was however intended to show the cruelty of captivity for marine mammals and the consequences on their behavior. Interestingly, all orca attacks on humans have taken place in captivity.
Source: Ottawa CitizenHowever, many marine parks are still keeping and exhibiting marine mammals to attract visitors. A financial sanction seems like the only option: without spectators, there will be no shows, which have no educational purpose, with animals performing in exchange for food. There are other more respectful ways for the public to find out about and to understand the incredible intelligence of marine mammals. Visiting them in their natural habitats, in the ocean, is an excellent (though costly) alternative, and allows you to admire the animals as they should be: free.