Vancouver police are investigating a break-in at the Vancouver Aquarium on Thursday night, hours before three-year-old baby beluga whale Tiqa was found dead in the pool.
Aquarium spokeswoman Charlene Chiang confirmed the break-in but directed all calls to Vancouver police.
Spokeswoman Const. Jana McGuinness wasn’t immediately available for comment.
“Tiqa, born June 10, 2008, died early this [Friday] morning at approximately 5:45 a.m.,” the aquarium said in a press release.
The animal “was on and off food,” said spokeswoman Charlene Chiang. But the death “was very sudden for us.”
The beluga’s body has been sent to B.C.’s animal health care centre at the agriculture ministry for a necropsy.
The results are expected to “take some time,” said Chiang.
“Vancouver Aquarium staff — particularly its animal care team — and volunteers are deeply saddened by this loss,” the statement said.
Tiqa was the third calf sired by Imaq, a 23-year-old who was relocated earlier this year to a Texas breeding pool, to die at Vancouver’s facility.
Tiqa’s sibling, Nala, suddenly choked to death in June 2010 after two small rocks and a coin inflamed a “pocket-like growth” that blocked her air passage.
The aquarium said the growth was a “bizarre,” possibly congenital, defect and called the death unpreventable.
Nala’s mother, Aurora, also gave birth to a male calf named Tuvaq in 2002, which died three years later.
Nala’s death brought calls to end the breeding of belugas in captivity but others said the education and research value gained from keeping belugas outweighs tragedies like Nala’s death.
Tiqa was the aquarium’s last remaining calf. Mother Qila, 16, was the first beluga to be born at a Canadian aquarium. She is one of the three belugas left at the aquarium. The others are Kavna, 43, and Aurora, 24.