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article imageTwo more beluga whale deaths at Marineland, Canada?

By Elizabeth Batt     May 29, 2013 in Environment
Niagara Falls - Although no official announcement has been made by Marineland Canada, it appears that the facility lost two more of its beluga whales in 2012, taking the total of whale deaths to three in just one year.
Based upon news reports and updated inventories, the deaths of the two belugas seem to have occurred sometime in 2012 but after the month of August.
Existing photographs of three-year-old Charlotte and one-year-old Luna on Flickr show both belugas alive and well on August 21, 2012, Marineland's summer season.
At this time, Marineland was known to possess 41 captive belugas as witnessed in this video at WZRG.com. Furthermore, an Aug. 16 news report in the Toronto Star which discussed the death of Marineland's baby beluga Skoot, said:
It’s not clear whether Marineland is screening their 41 belugas for meningitis and treating any that may have it.
But by October 18, 2012, in another expose -- this time about Marineland's orca Kiska, the Star revealed that the number of belugas at the amusement park had decreased by two.
Former trainer Christine Santos told the newspaper:
There are seven or eight trainers for Kiska and the 39 belugas (six pregnant) at Friendship and Arctic Coves...
Across the internet, there was no mention or news reports of any beluga deaths tied to Charlotte and Luna, but at the well-maintained online cetacean inventory website: Ceta-Base.com, the inventory has noted in its 'Lulalogue', that both Charlotte and Luna are indeed, deceased.
The loss of these whales has elevated Marineland's death total to three belugas for the year 2012. Last August, 2012, the Star reported the heartbreaking and tragic death of a baby whale killed at the park on May 28:
Baby beluga Skoot died in the arms of trainers at Marineland after a brutal two-hour assault by two adult male belugas that left her unresponsive and unable to swim.
The park has faced increased scrutiny and official inspections recently after several former trainers spoke out against poor conditions at Marineland.
Alex Dorer, president of the cetacean advocate group: Fins and Fluke, recently visited Marineland and believes that part of the problem for the belugas is their small environment. She told Digital Journal:
Friendship Cove is home to 11 juvenile belugas, ranging in ages from 1 year of age to 11 years. Some of these beluga's are covered in rake marks and others have apparent signs of skin damage to their mouths. We were not able to get an honest answer about either the rake marks or the damaged skin, but it wasn't pleasant to look at. The space these belugas live in is quite large, but not large enough for 11 belugas.
Rake marks and a damaged mouth were observed on this young Marineland beluga whale by Fins and Fluke...
Rake marks and a damaged mouth were observed on this young Marineland beluga whale by Fins and Fluke president, Alex Dorer. These personal images were shared voluntarily.
Courtesy Fins and Fluke
Unfortunately, these latest casualties take Marineland's beluga death toll to 20 whales in just 14 years. In fact, between 2009 and 2012, at least one white whale has died at the park every year. The majority of them died young. (Source: Ceta-Base.com)
It is a startling statistic only emphasized by this recent report from Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC). The organization states that, "belugas in the wild can live up to 50 or 60 years." [See Bomb Radiocarbon Dating Calibrates Beluga (Delphinapterus Leucas) Age Estimates. Stewart et al; 2006].
Digital Journal has contacted Marineland for confirmation and clarification on the causes of Charlotte and Luna's deaths. We have received no response to date. We did learn however on 5/31 that Marineland responded to the Niagara Falls Review and confirmed the deaths. Luna died this year, but the aquarium still did not give specific dates.
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