Vancouver Aquarium’s beloved beluga whale Qila has died, after 21 years of entertaining visitors from around the world.
“It is difficult to put into words the love we all had for her. Like you, we will miss her immensely,” said CEO John Nightingale in a release.
“As for many of you, Qila was a delight for our staff and volunteers every single day – she was always the first to give us a wink, a little tail flap or a head bob in the morning.”
Qila was the first beluga whale to be born and raised in a Canadian aquarium, on July 23, 1995, and contributed to many early studies of their physiology.
Over the years, scientists have carried out groundbreaking research with Qila, which led them to discover unique vocalizations between beluga whale mothers and calves.
For two decades Qila was cared for by Dr. Martin Haulena and Brian Sheehan, who lead the Vancouver Aquarium’s marine mammal care team.
“There have been days when they’ve spent more time with our beluga whales than they have with their own children,” said Nightingale.
The Aquarium has one remaining beluga whale – Aurora. Nightingale said staff will now be helping her adjust to the sad loss of Qila.