Kharabali, one of the beluga whales kept captive at Connecticut’s Mystic Aquarium, US, died on 11th December 2023 after she began swimming abnormally the month before. She is the third death among five beluga whales that were transported there from Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada, in 2021, after animal rights organisations unsuccessfully sued to block the whale’s transport. A male beluga named Havok died in August 2021, and a female named Havana died in February 2022.

The Canadian whales, which ranged in age from 7 to 12 at the time of the transport, were born in captivity. Kharabali was 9 years of age when she died, while belugas in the wild can live up to 50 years.

An inspection by the U.S. Department of Agriculture after Havoc’s death found problems with the care of that whale and others. An aquarium spokeswoman said at the time that issues brought up in the inspection were being addressed. The inspectors’ report at that time stated, “Although staff members were recording their observations of Havok’s behaviours, the veterinarian was not contacted during this eight-hour timeframe until Havok’s death at 0550 hours (5:50 a.m.). The facility failed to provide adequate veterinary care by not using appropriate methods to prevent, control, diagnose and treat diseases during Havok’s last eight hours.”

Regina Asmutis-Silvia, executive director of  Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC-NA), said about Kharabali’s death, “WDC does not believe the medical care she received at Mystic was subpar, but even the best medical care cannot justify holding these whales and dolphins captive for entertainment or research purposes.”

Currently, more than 3,500 whales, dolphins, and porpoises are held captive around the world. In October 2023, the Lotte World Aquarium in South Korea filed charges against a local animal rights group for holding a protest within its premises regarding the failure to release a beluga whale. In 2022, these activists held a protest at the Lotte World Aquarium in Jamsil, southern Seoul, demanding that the company release the beluga whale Bella to a wildlife sanctuary.

Jordi Casamitjana
“Originally from Catalonia, but resident in the UK for several decades, Jordi is a vegan zoologist and author, who has been involved in different aspects of animal protection for many years. In addition to scientific research, he has worked mostly as an undercover investigator, animal welfare consultant, and animal protection campaigner. He has been an ethical vegan since 2002, and in 2020 he secured the legal protection of all ethical vegans in Great Britain from discrimination in a landmark employment tribunal case that was discussed all over the world. He is also the author of the book, ‘Ethical Vegan: a personal and political journey to change the world’.