The calfÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s tail poked out at 12:40 p.m., which started a series of contractions until the baby arrived at 3:39 p.m. in a cloud of blood.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“This birth was really textbook. You couldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t really hope for a better birth,Ã¢â‚¬Â said Vancouver Aquarium senior vice-president of operations Clint Wright. Ã¢â‚¬Å“[Aurora] looked to be extremely relaxed throughout the whole thing.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Later, the piece discusses the odds on the baby’s survival:
AuroraÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s calf appears to be healthy, but with the mortality rate for beluga calves estimated at 40 to 50 per cent, staff will be watching it closely. AuroraÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s only son, Tuvaq, died just before his third birthday in 2005. Her other calf, Qila, gave birth to AuroraÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s first granddaughter, Tiqa, last June.
When I read about Qila’s birth on Rebecca’s blog, I wondered about the survival rate for whale births in captivity. I did a little research, and found this list of 33 whale deaths at the Vancouver Aquarium over the past forty-five years. I also found this dodgy site which claimed that “Six out of seven baby whales and dolphins have died at the aquarium, but even the grisly spectacle of a dead baby whale is a huge draw for visitors.”
I contacted the PR department at the Vancouver Aquarium about that second statistic. Despite my repeated efforts to get an answer, they neither confirmed nor denied that figure.
They did provide me with some well-supported evidence that a beluga’s life expectancy in captivity is similar (or better) than that in the wild. I don’t think we should keep large, intelligent mammals in captivity though, so I’m not sure it’s a life worth living.
As an adult, I’ve always been conflicted about the Vancouver Aquarium. On the one hand, I admire their scientific research and educational endeavours. On the other, I find the whales’ continued presence despicable. It’s for this latter reason that, when were planning an event for this fall, we chose not to consider the Aquarium
In any case, I wouldn’t be too optimistic about the long term chances of any whale born in captivity.