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Third Marineland beluga that moved to U.S. aquarium dies

Three beluga whales swim together in an acclimation pool after arriving at Mystic Aquarium, Friday, May 14, 2021 in Mystic, Connecticut. A third beluga from Marineland has died at a U.S. aquarium after moving there two years ago.THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Mystic Aquarium-Jason DeCrow *MANDATORY CREDIT*. JD

A third beluga from Marineland has died at a U.S. aquarium after arriving there two years ago.

Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut says the beluga named Kharabali exhibited abnormal swimming behaviour in November and was eventually moved to its intensive care facility 11 days ago.

Mystic says staff were giving Kharabali round-the-clock care for “multiple health issues” before she died.

Marineland, a tourist attraction in Niagara Falls, Ont., sold five belugas to Mystic and they were moved to the U.S. aquarium in May 2021.

Mystic said one whale died within months of the move while the second died about a year later, due to pre-existing conditions.

The belugas’ move came at the same time the Ontario government had declared all marine mammals at Marineland in distress due to water problems.

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The U.S. aquarium’s workers are devastated by Kharabali’s death, Mystic said.

“Her spirit touched us all, and we are heartbroken by her passing,” said Allison Tuttle, Mystic’s chief zoological officer, in a statement.

The cause of death is not known, but a necropsy will be conducted, Mystic said.

A fourth Marineland beluga was in intensive care at Mystic last year, but has rebounded since, the park said.

Marineland thanked Mystic for its care of the belugas.

“They provide exceptional care for beluga whales, and despite being amid the challenges of COVID-19, in May 2021, Mystic Aquarium took these five whales on for us to the world-class care and expertise they needed,” Marineland said in a statement released by Mystic.

“This collaboration underscores the global community’s shared responsibility for animal welfare. Marineland is deeply thankful for Mystic Aquarium’s professionalism and tireless efforts in safeguarding the health and happiness of these beloved marine creatures.”

The U.S. government launched an investigation after the first two beluga deaths, although the probe remains ongoing.

The week the whales were moved, Ontario’s Animal Welfare Services found all marine mammals at Marineland to be in distress due to poor water quality. In court documents, Marineland denied its animals were in distress.

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A Canadian Press investigation revealed earlier this year that 13 belugas, a dolphin and the country’s lone killer whale, Kiska, have died at Marineland since 2019.

Twelve of the beluga deaths occurred within a two-year window – documents show a beluga named Ikora dying on Oct. 24, 2019, followed by 10 others and a beluga named Bull dying on Nov. 23, 2021.

The province’s four-year-long investigation of Marineland remains shrouded in mystery, with officials refusing to disclose details of its probe, what it is doing at the park and how the animals died.

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