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Zoo officials prepare to move sick whale to new tank as concern grows

Post by News Tribune Staff on March 28, 2009 at 2:17 pm with No Comments »
March 28, 2009 2:17 pm

Editor’s Note: Qannik died later Saturday before the zoo could transfer the beluga whale.

Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium beluga Qannik plays with his hoop Thursday, March 26, 2009. Cole Cosgrove/The News Tribune

Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium officials were preparing Saturday to move Qannik, the ailing 8-year-old beluga whale, into a new pool as concern grows about his weight loss.

The temporary pool will be filled with warmer water, an environment that officials hope will allow the whale to expend less energy staying warm, said John Houck, the zoo’s deputy director.

Qannik, one of two belugas as Point Defiance, has been in a pool with 46 degree water. The water temperature of the new pool will be about 60 degrees, Houck said.

“We’re very concerned about his weight loss and our ability to get enough calories” into him, he said.

Veterinarians still are not sure what is wrong with Qannik, other than he has some kind of infection. He began losing interest in food March 15. Zoo officials have been giving him additional fluids and high-calorie nutrients.

Officials reported some improvement in Qannik’s behavior earlier this week, saying he was interacting more with Beethoven, the zoo’s other beluga, and playing with toys in the pool. But they said they remained “very guarded” about his condition.

Qannik (pronounced kah-NIK) came to Tacoma in 2007 from Chicago’s John G. Shedd Aquarium. He is the offspring of Mayauk, a former Point Defiance resident who was later moved to the Shedd Aquarium.

Mayauk lost two newborn calves during her stay in Tacoma, and a third died in Chicago. She gave birth to Qannik in 2000.

Beluga whale Qannik, top, is motionless and lethargic while Beethoven, bottom, is swimming constantly around Qannik at the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium. The zoo have the veterinarian from Sea World in San Diego to come for an second opinion as of Qannik’s condition. (Lui Kit Wong/The News Tribune) (3/25/09)

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