Kavna, the oldest beluga whale in a North American aquarium, died at the age of 46 at the Vancouver Aquarium on Monday.
Preliminary results of the beluga’s necropsy indicate that Kavna had lesions contingent with an incurable cancer, but further tests are needed to determine her cause of death. According to reports, the whale stopped eating four to six weeks ago, and while she initially responded well to antibiotics, her condition deteriorated over the weekend.
“While our staff and volunteers are saddened at the loss of our beluga whale, Kavna, we’re left with very warm memories of her at the Vancouver Aquarium,” said Clint Wright, Vancouver Aquarium senior vice president, in a press release.
More than 30 million people saw Kavna during her lifetime, according to aquarium estimates, and children’s singer Raffi Cavoukian was among them. It was Cavoukian’s 1979 meeting with Cavoukian that inspired his popular 1980 song “Baby Beluga” about a whale’s life in the sea.
"It was my first time at the aquarium, and I was very fortunate that I got to be taken poolside and the trainer helped me play with Kavna," Cavoukian told The Canadian Press on Tuesday. "She was just so beautiful. She was so playful and she had a very pure spirit and you could swear she smiled at you."
Cavoukian last visited Kavna a few years ago when he says he had his “second kiss” with the whale. A photo of his rubbing noses with Kavna was posted to the singer’s Facebook page this week.
"I felt sad and I also felt a lot of joy for the privilege of having gotten to know her and the fact that she stirred me to write that song," he said.
Captured off the coast of Churchill, Manitoba, in 1976, Kavna became the aquarium’s first whale. She was pregnant at the time and gave birth to a calf named Tuaq, who died several months later.
The Vancouver Aquarium is home to two other beluga whales, Aurora and her daughter, Qila.
Listen to "Baby Beluga" in the animated video below.
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