The Point Defiance Zoo just announced that Beethoven, the zoo’s remaining beluga whale, will be leaving after the recent death of Qannik.
Here’s the press release:
TACOMA – Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium’s beluga whale Beethoven will return to his home at Sea World in San Antonio, Texas to participate in a cooperative whale breeding program, zoo officials announced today.
A date for Beethoven’s relocation has not been determined but could be as early as April 29, according to zoo officials. With no whales available to replace Beethoven in the short-term, zoo staff are making plans to move California sea lions into the vacated whale pool during the summer months.
"Beethoven has touched millions of lives and been an extraordinary ambassador for whales everywhere during his 11 years here," said Gary Geddes, director of zoological and environmental education for Metro Parks Tacoma. "While we’re sad about his return to Sea World, we believe that it’s best for Beethoven and the future of the beluga population in zoos and aquariums across the country."
As a healthy male beluga, Beethoven has an opportunity to make a significant contribution to the genetic diversity of the species, said Geddes. Last year, three beluga whales were born in zoos and aquariums accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums, bringing the total number of beluga whales in accredited North American zoos and aquariums to 35.
Point Defiance Zoo officials are currently engaged in a long-term strategic planning effort about the zoo’s animal collection and will make recommendations to the Metro Parks Tacoma board this fall, said Geddes. The Tacoma zoo and aquarium has been home to beluga whales since the mid-1980s.
Beethoven, 16, has lived at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium since 1998. His companion, Qannik, died in late March.
Geddes said zoo officials are working to acquire California sea lions as part of a government effort to relocate or remove dozens of California sea lions that are feeding on endangered salmon on the Columbia River.
"We have a wonderful opportunity to provide a home for these California sea lions and allow our visitors to see these amazing animals up close," said Geddes.