The Vancouver Aquarium’s 46-year-old Kavna, the oldest captive beluga whale in North America, died around 3 p.m. today after what veterinarians called a “long and healthy life.”
Kavna was the inspiration behind one of Canadian troubadour Raffi’s biggest hits “Baby Beluga,” which he penned after a brief encounter at the aquarium in 1979.
“just heard the news, sad she’s gone. Loved meeting her in ’79 ~ gave me a kiss, inspired a song now known to millions!,” the singer, whose full name is Raffi Cavoukian, tweeted Monday night.
Kavna had been displaying “inconsistent behaviour” over the past few weeks, according to an aquarium media release, and had undergone bloodwork and other tests to determine the cause of her behaviour. Over the next two days a full necropsy will be completed to determine the cause of her death the release said.
However, most wild belugas live about 25 or 30 years and, at 46, aquarium spokeswoman Charlene Chiang said Kavna was at the end of a long life.
Kavna first came to the aquarium from Churchill, Manitoba in the summer of 1976 and gave birth to a calf named Tuaq in 1977. Tuaq only lived 16 weeks before dying of a deep-seated infection.
The aquarium’s other belugas are Aurora, a female arrived who also came from Churchill, Manitoba in the summer of 1990, and her daughter Qila.
Veterinarians estimate Aurora was born around 1987. Qila was born at the Aquarium on July 23, 1995. Her father, Nanuq, was moved to Sea World in the United States.