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Last chance to see Point Defiance’s beluga whale Beethoven

Post by Mike Archbold on May 28, 2009 at 3:14 pm with No Comments »
May 28, 2009 3:14 pm

It’s will be an all whale weekend at the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium.

Fans of the zoo’s last beluga whale Beethoven will get a chance to see him perform in four extended shows Saturday and Sunday before he leaves next week for SeaWorld in Houston, Texas.

"This will be the last weekend (to see him) as far as we know, " John Rupp, curator of aquatic animals at the zoo, said today. "We are planning for his departure in the next week."

The weekend shows will be at 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. both days.

Sometime next week, he will be shipped by FedEx air to SeaWorld where he will become part of the breeding program there.

Rupp said the zoo policy is not to announce the date and time of his departure.

Beethoven will remain in his pool until close to the time he leaves when he will placed in the private back pool, he said.

So this weekend is it for the 16-year-old male who has been a popular attraction in Tacoma for the past 11 years. It also ends the zoo’s beluga whale program that dates back to the mid-1980s.

Rupp said Beethoven is in fine health. "It really makes it harder on us emotionally," he said. "He is in such good spirits and in such good shape. But moving him into a breeding area is the right thing."

Beethoven’s beluga buddy Qannix died March 28 of a bacterial blood infection.

Rupp said Beethoven will be moved in a bathtub-like cradle made of wood and fiberglass. It will be lined with foam and filled with water.

The zoo had hoped to get California sea lions from the Columbia River to take over for Beethoven but the trapping season is over for this year. Rupp said they will have to wait until next year to get a sea lion.

In the meantime, he said the zoo is planning to use the beluga pool for harbor seals and design an exhibit around them.

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