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Captive Beluga Whales in the U.S. & Canada

Discussion in 'United States' started by loxodontaafrica, 23 Jun 2015.

  1. loxodontaafrica

    loxodontaafrica Well-Known Member

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    As of today... June 23rd, 2015
    There are 33 captive beluga whales in AZA accredited facilities.
    I was surprised to find that 22 of them were in fact captive born. It could be argued that this is due to the low survivability of wild-caught stock in the long-term. Nonetheless it is impressive that such a small population has a fairly broad founder representation. With at least nine males (up to 13 potentially, I have not been able to find documentation confirming paternity in some cases) being represented.

    Marineland Canada is not accredited by the AZA, however they do presently exhibit 45 animals (25 wild caught, 20 captive born). Please note as of today this figure could be higher or lower, depending on births or deaths that have not been reported publicly by the park. Four of their captive born animals are now on permanent breeding loans with in AZA institutions. Though in general they have proven hesitant to work with facilities. This is certain to change in the future as their captive born animals mature, however keep in mind they currently have more animals on site than the entire AZA stock.

    On December 6th, 2008, the MLC imported eight female wild-caught beluga from Russia. Several of these animals have since produced viable calves.

    The Georgia Aquarium was (is?) attempting to import a total of 18 beluga from Russia as well. However their permit application to import was denied.
    To my knowledge these animals have since been purchased by other facilities with in Russia and East Asia.


    Georgia Aquarium
    Maris, F (Winston x Natasha)
    Qinu, F (Nanuq x Sikku)
    Grayson, M (Nanuq x Martha)
    1.2 (3)

    Mystic Aquarium
    Kelalukak, F
    Naluark, M
    Juno, M (MC? x Denise)
    2.1 (3)

    SeaWorld San Antonio
    Natasha, F
    Crissy, F
    Martha, F
    Luna, F (Luke x Martina)
    Stella, F (Imaq x Crissy)
    Imaq, M
    Oliver, M (Nanuq x Martina)
    Samson, M (Imaq x Luna)
    Martha’s Calf (2015), ? (Imaq x Martha)
    3.5.1 (9)

    SeaWorld San Diego
    Allua, F
    Atla, F (AI Nanuq x Luna)
    Pearl, F (Nanuq x Ruby)
    Ferdinand, M
    Klondike, M (MC? x Xena)
    2.3 (5)

    SeaWorld Orlando
    Whisper, F (AJ or Luke x Crissy)
    Maple, F (MC? x Priscilla)
    Aurek, M (MC? x Gemini)
    1.2 (3)

    Shedd Aquarium
    Mauyak, F
    Naya, F
    Kayavak, F (Inuk x Immiayuk)
    Bella, F (Naluark x Puiji)
    Kimalu, F (Naluark x Mauyak)
    Beetoven, M (Ike x Bandit)
    Miki, M (Naluark x Mauyak)
    Nunavik, M (Naluark x Puiji)
    3.5 (8)

    Vancouver Aquarium
    Aurora, F
    Qila, F (Nanuq x Aurora)

    Recent deaths:
    Georgia Aquarium, Maris' (xBeethoven) calf
    SeaWorld Orlando, Nanuq
    SeaWorld San Antonio, Bella
    SeaWorld San Diego, Ruby

    Recent Births:
    SeaWorld San Antonio, Martha's (xImaq), calf

    Recent Transfers:
    Beethoven, m, was transferred from the Georgia Aquarium to the Shedd Aquarium, where he is hoped to mate with Mauyak, Kayuvak, and Bella.

    Speculation
    SeaWorld San Antonio, given their birth intervals, it may be safe to presume that if not currently pregnant both Crissy and Luna should be producing calves either later this year, or in 2016.

    *NOTE, THE MAJORITY OF CAPTIVE BELUGA BIRTHS TAKE PLACE IN THE MONTHS OF JUNE AND JULY*
     
  2. loxodontaafrica

    loxodontaafrica Well-Known Member

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    non-AZA

    Marineland Canada
    1998 Russian Capture
    Andre, M
    1999, Russian Capture
    Xena, F
    Charmin, F
    Gemini, F
    2000, Russian Capture
    Isis, F
    2003, Russian Capture
    Caspian, F
    Cleopatra, F
    Jubilee, F
    Osiris, F
    Sierra, F
    2004, Russian Capture
    Kelowna, F
    Peekachu, F
    Skyla, F
    Kodiak, M
    Orion, M
    Tofino, M
    Tuktoyaktuk (Tuk), M
    2008, Russian Capture
    Acadia, F
    Aurora, F
    Lilooet, F
    Meeka, F
    Rain, F
    Rose, F
    Secord, F
    Talia, F
    Captive Born
    Acadia's Calf (2014)
    Aurora's Calf (2014)
    Rose's Calf (2014)
    Skyla's Calf (2014)
    Isis' Calf (2014)
    Yara, F ( x Cleopatra)
    Wink, F ( x Peekachu)
    Ruby F (Tuk x Meeka)
    Gia, F ( x Gemini)
    Xavier II, M ( x Xena)
    Frankie, M ( x Sierra)
    Uba, F ( x Jubilee)
    Tank, M ( x Acadia)
    Qila, F ( x Isis)
    Neva, F ( x Cleopatra)
    Mira, F ( x Oceanna)
    Eve, F ( x Xena)
    Jelly Bean, F ( x Jubilee)
    Burnaby, M ( x Gemini)
    Horas, M ( x Isis)
     
  3. ZooElephantsMan

    ZooElephantsMan Well-Known Member

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    Do belugas do well in groups with so many of them there (9 at sea world san antonio)
     
  4. wensleydale

    wensleydale Well-Known Member

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    They seem to breed more when there are a lot of them. I don't like marineland but I suspect they may well end up with the first surviving calf born to parents who were themselves also born in captivity. Another candidate for this in my opinion would be one of the SeaWorld parks. I also predict that some of marineland's animals might well make their way into the AZA population eventually, say if they get bought out by another company (and who's to say they won't be) who decides to downsize the number of Beluga's they have.
     
  5. TheMightyOrca

    TheMightyOrca Well-Known Member

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    ... Wow, MLC has a lot!
     
  6. Hyak_II

    Hyak_II Well-Known Member

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    This is an excellent post!

    For births, honestly I don't think the next ones will be Crissy/Luna, I think our most likely candidates will be Natasha (honestly I am hoping she will give birth this year, but SW is EXTREMELY tight lipped about beluga pregnancies), or the Shedd females next year.

    With 4 breedable females, and Beethoven being a proven male, I anticipate a number of calves from Shedd over the next few years. On that topic, why do you not mention Naya as a potential breeder? She has only had two births, and only one of those was live, hardly enough to write her off as a breeder!

    And of course marineland, there will probably be 4-8 births there this year, given their growing number of maturing females.
     
  7. tigris115

    tigris115 Well-Known Member

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    How do you keep 45 belugas in captivity?
     
  8. loxodontaafrica

    loxodontaafrica Well-Known Member

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    Thank you @Hyak! I was hoping you would jump in on this, given your area of seeming expertise (or insight?).

    I honestly didn't even recall Natasha, though I had written the list of captive whales only moments before!

    Re: Naya, I fell under the elephant fanatic spell of assuming a lack of reproduction to indicate underlying issues preventing successful future births!


    I do have some questions though if you would be willing to weigh in!

    What is the situation with breeding at both the SWO and SWSD facilities?
    Is Ferdinand unable to court and breed cows because he was housed with Commerson's @ Duisburg and thus became socialized with (for lack of a better word) a different animal/species? Or does he have a reproductive hinderance? Low sperm count, etc?

    What is the general opinion of GA's beluga program? Could the lack of success in calf survival be at the cause of poor management, facility design (I personally question if the exhibit promotes the room necessary for uninhibited nursing behavior), or just simply poor luck?
     
  9. wensleydale

    wensleydale Well-Known Member

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    Shedd would also be a likely candidate for first successful calf born to parents who were also born in a zoological setting. I forgot them.
     
  10. Hyak_II

    Hyak_II Well-Known Member

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    No problem :) I work in the marine mammal field, however I openly admit belugas are not part of my current work force. I think to think I can still offer some well educated conjecture though :D

    Ya, Natasha seems to fall under the radar some, I think its because she is a behind the scenes beluga only, so there is pretty much nothing on her out there.

    And its all good! For cetaceans, especially ones where every breeder counts, like belugas, even if a female has a poor success rate, they'll still try their best to breed them assuming it isn't harming the female.

    As for breeding at SWO and SWSD, honestly, its iffy. I don't see any calves being born at San Diego for at least 3-4 more years, simply because they have no breeding females. Pearl and Atla are both 2-3 years away from the general age females start to cycle, and Allua has never bred before, which makes me doubtful she will start at 30 someodd years of age (although Ruby did not have he first calve until around this age as well, so you never know!). The other issues are the males. For Ferdinand, I honestly think it is something to do with sperm count/motility. He definitely knows his way around a female Beluga, and if video footage is anything to gauge, he has a fairly active libido. However he never managed to get Ruby pregnant over the 10 years he lived with her, or any other female, so sadly I don't hold out much hope for him contributing to the population, despite his extremely valuable genetics. Klondike however is coming of breeding age, so who knows how he will perform when the time comes.

    As for Orlando, the currently have one proven breeder female, and the two sub-adults just entering maturity. Assuming Aurek is fertile, I see no reason why Whisper and Maple shouldn't start producing calves in the next few years. Although its unlikely, there is also a chance that Nanuq managed to impregnate one or both females during his time in Orlando as well.

    For Georgia, I am generally in favor of their Beulga program, and chalk most of their poor breeding success to bad luck/Maris. Maris seems to have issues with milk production, which can be make or break in some situations, IMO. However, with Qinu at seven years old, I hold out the hope that in the next few coming years both her and Maris will fall pregnant at the same time. Belugas can demonstrate allo-parenting to a noticeable degree, and if a calve has two females to nurse from, that could greatly help its odds if Maris fails to produce sufficient milk again.

    Edit: Also yes, I too agree that Shedd will be the first one to produce fully captive bred animals. I can see Marineland doing it too, but not for 4-5 more years, at minimum.
     
  11. TheMightyOrca

    TheMightyOrca Well-Known Member

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    And what do they do with so many anyway? I mean, I can picture 45 belugas being under their ownership while most being loaned out to other parks, but all being held in one place?
     
  12. wensleydale

    wensleydale Well-Known Member

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    Beluga encounters are a big part of what marineland offers. During one of the importations the owner said that there was a large market for them, hence the importation.
     
  13. vogelcommando

    vogelcommando Well-Known Member

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  14. Shellheart

    Shellheart Well-Known Member

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    I find it amazing how well belugas have been thriving at MLC compared to the seemingly stagnating U.S. population. How many whales have been born there? It sounds like belugas may very well do best in larger groups...
     
  15. Hyak_II

    Hyak_II Well-Known Member

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    I would say its almost certain that they do better in larger groups. Marineland has a whopping 51-53 belugas right now, over half of which are captive bred. Essentially, they are effectively mimicking their wild social structure. Additionally, they are located within the belugas natural range (albeit more inland), which undoubtedly helps synchronise breeding cycles and bring the animals into breeding conditions properly.
     
  16. jayjds2

    jayjds2 Well-Known Member

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    Perhaps Marineland Canada will single-handedly save the captive beluga population... :p

    That's a great first post. Any chances of an update?
     
  17. TZFan

    TZFan Well-Known Member

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    Marineland is a horrible place. The animals would be lucky to leave that prison however they are likely inbreed already since breeding there is indiscriminate. It would be fantastic if that place were shut down and the belugas there were dispersed throughout the US plus the Vancouver Aquarium. Some serious DNA testing would be needed though to figure out the sires.
     
  18. wensleydale

    wensleydale Well-Known Member

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    Frankly I think marineland has the potential to be turned into something really good, it just needs new management. Probably this will require some cost cutting, they could start by divesting themselves of some of their Belugas and sending them to AZA institutions. They could be the seed animals for larger social groups, and maybe places like Georgia the Shedd with indoor exhibits could alter their lighting (and probably some other things) to make it more like their natural range. God willing john holer will die or retire sooner or later (preferably sooner) and somebody more reputable will take over marineland, hopefully someone not dumb enough to listen to naomi rose.
     
  19. Hyak_II

    Hyak_II Well-Known Member

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    Well....no.

    All of their breeding animals are wild caught, and therefore all of their offspring are out of unrelated pairings. Their oldest captive bred's are only 10 years old and would just now be starting to cusp on sexual maturity. Additionally, they have 7 founding males, most of which likely have several offspring each. Not to mention at least 18 founding females that currently have calves and the many others that have yet to breed. Their singular population is more genetically sound then the entire american population combined.

    For DNA testing, it wouldn't be very complicated at all. There are only 7 possible sires, of which 5 are still alive, and mothers are all known. A simple blood test from all the calves compared against the 5 males would be fairly straight forwards. For those sired by the 2 deceased males, the differences and similarities between genotypes could to used to determine siblings.

    As well, it is hardly a prison for their belugas. They are kept in the largest tanks for belugas in North America, in the largest social groups in the world. They live outdoors in species appropriate climate conditions, and receive restaurant quality fish the same as any other facility the feeds fish to their animals (Toronto, Ripley's, and Marineland all likely receive fish from the same original supplier). Yes, the park has lots of ways they could improve, however their beluga program is second to none for north american facilities. I'd actually go so far as to say their belugas have some of the highest qualities of lives in North American facilities.
     
  20. TheAmurTiger

    TheAmurTiger Well-Known Member

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    I think it's time for an updated inventory list (this is as of June 27, 2017).

    As of November 25, 2016, Vancouver Aquarium's beluga population has died out with the last two animals, Qila and Aurora, passing away. With new legislation now occurring in Vancouver, it is unlikely that they will be able to bring back Allua or Imaq.

    Marineland Canada still doesn't have an AZA membership, and will remain off the list, though they had a total of five pregnant belugas in 2015 and seven in 2016. Two of the calves, those of Gemini and Rain, did not survive in 2015. No update has been given on the 2016 calves. As of 2017, Jelly Bean, Eve, and Isis are now pregnant at Marineland Canada, and are likely to give birth by August. Since the last update, Rose and Talia have passed away, as well as Belyi. The possible sires of Jelly Bean's calf and Eve's calf are Tuktoyaktuk, Orion, Horus, or Burnaby. The possible sires of Isis's calf are Andre and Kodiak.

    SeaWorld Orlando has not yet officially announced it, but educators and regular guests have stated that Whisper is pregnant with a calf sired by Naluark. According to Ceta-Base, she is due around June of 2017, though since it is almost the end of June, I would guess early to mid July.

    Georgia Aquarium
    Qinu, F (Nanuq x Sikku)
    Nunavik, M (Naluark x Puiji)
    Maple, F (MC? x Priscilla)
    Aurek, M (MC? x Gemini)
    2.2 (4)

    Mystic Aquarium
    Kelalukak, F
    Juno, M (MC? x Denise)
    1.1 (2)

    SeaWorld San Antonio
    Natasha, F
    Crissy, F
    Martha, F
    Luna, F (Luke x Martina)
    Imaq, M
    Oliver, M (Nanuq x Martina)
    Samson, M (Imaq x Luna)
    Kenai, M (Imaq x Luna)
    4.4 (8)

    SeaWorld San Diego
    Allua, F
    Atla, F (AI Nanuq x Luna)
    Pearl, F (Nanuq x Ruby)
    Ferdinand, M
    Klondike, M (MC? x Xena)
    2.3 (5)

    SeaWorld Orlando
    Whisper, F (Luke x Crissy)
    Naluark, M
    Whisper's calf (not yet born), ? (Naluark x Whisper)
    1.1.1 (3)

    Shedd Aquarium
    Mauyak, F
    Naya, F
    Kayavak, F (Inuk x Immiayuk)
    Bella, F (Naluark x Puiji)
    Kimalu, F (Naluark x Mauyak)
    Beethoven, M (Ike x Bandit)
    Grayson, M (Nanuq x Martha)
    2.5 (7)

    Recent deaths:
    SeaWorld San Antonio, Martha's calf, ? (Imaq x Martha)
    Georgia Aquarium, Maris, F (Winston x Natasha)
    SeaWorld San Antonio, Stella, F (Imaq x Crissy)
    Mystic Aquarium, Miki, M (Naluark x Mauyak)
    Vancouver Aquarium, Qila, F (Nanuq x Aurora)
    Vancouver Aquarium, Aurora, F

    Recent Births:
    Kenai, M (Imaq x Luna)
    Whisper's calf (due Summer 2017), ? (Naluark x Whisper)

    Recent Transfers:
    Grayson was transferred from Georgia Aquarium to Shedd Aquarium, the cause is supposedly for gene dispersal, as Grayson was related to the other female at Georgia Aquarium - Qinu.

    Nunavik was transferred from Shedd Aquarium to Georgia Aquarium, probably not as a breeder yet, as he is only 8.

    Miki was transferred from Shedd Aquarium to Mystic Aquarium, probably as competition between him and Juno to breed with Kela.

    Naluark was transferred from Mystic Aquarium to SeaWorld Orlando in order to breed him with Whisper. Aurek and Maple had not previously gotten along with Whisper, leaving her in the back pool a lot before. Naluark has since impregnated Whisper and she is due in late June or early July of 2017.

    Aurek and Maple were transferred from SeaWorld Orlando to Georgia Aquarium, likely as breeders for both each other and Qinu.

    *NOTE, THE MAJORITY OF CAPTIVE BELUGA BIRTHS TAKE PLACE IN THE MONTHS OF JUNE AND JULY*[/QUOTE]
     
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