The white whale known as Belugas (Delphinapterus leucas) are easily characterised with their completely white coloration, lack of dorsal fin, and domed forehead called a melon. The scientific naming of the belugas define them as “dolphins without a dorsal fin”.
Belugas are highly sociable mammals that live, travel, and hunt together in a pod. They are called “canaries of the sea” because of the way they can communicate with chirps, whistles, clicks, and squeals.
Belugas can range in size from 11 to 20 feet long and weigh 2,000 to 3,000 pounds. A beluga’s diet will consist of sandworms, octopus, salmon, herring, crabs, mollusks, shrimp, and much more because they are opportunistic eaters.
Belugas will mate in the early spring and after 14-16 month gestation period, will give birth to a single calf in the summer months between March and September. Infant belugas are called calves. Calves are gray at birth with hair around their snouts in order to find its mother’s mammary gland. As calves get older, the gray will fade until they are mature and fully white.
Because of overfishing and being hunted for food and leather, beluga conservation status is Threatened and only around 150,000 left in the wild. Their natural predators are Orca Whales and Polar Bears. Being trapped under ice caps can also be fatal for belugas as they cannot come up for air.
In light of the tragic death of the baby beluga at the Georgia Aquarium and the joyous birth at SeaWorld San Antonio, I thought I would write about them. A lot of people don’t know much about animals that are in captivity, let alone how well their care is. Zoos and aquariums that are AZA affiliated have standards and do their very best to take care of each and every animal. Each animal gets food that they don’t have to hunt for, they take their vitamins, and they have zero predators. Animals in captivity have a good life. Much better than yours or mine.
For those people that ask why the Georgia Aquarium’s beluga calf didn’t survive, the reason isn’t because they are in a facility. The first calf born to a beluga only has a survival rate of 15% and the second of 50%. In the wild, calves have a lower chance of surviving simply because of predation and lack of care given in captivity.
Instead of bashing the people who dedicate their lives to the care of animals everywhere, we should be congratulating them for working so hard. And more importantly, we should be mourning for the death of any creature.