On World Whale Day, we’re remembering Nanuq, a beluga whale at SeaWorld Orlando, who died in March of 2015 after fracturing his jaw during an “interaction” with two other whales and later contracting an infection.
In 1990, when Nanuq was just 6 years old, he was torn away from his home waters in Manitoba, Canada. In the wild, belugas live together in small groups known as pods. They are social animals and communicate with each other using a language of clicks, whistles, and clangs. But Nanuq was trapped and would never see or communicate with his pod again.
The Vancouver Aquarium owned Nanuq, but much like a piece of equipment, he was “on loan” to SeaWorld for profit. The sensitive, intelligent whale was shipped five times between various SeaWorld parks, where he was used for breeding and to entertain visitors at the park’s “Beluga Interaction Program.”
For two years prior to 2010, Nanuq was part of an intensive experimental artificial insemination program at SeaWorld and was removed from the water approximately 42 times so that workers could collect sperm samples. He has seven living offspring—he fathered 13 babies, but six died at birth or shortly thereafter.
Through the official cause of Nanuq’s death is an infection of his jaw tissue, one thing is clear: Humans took Nanuq’s life away from him on the day that they captured him 25 years ago and sentenced him to a stress-filled, lonely existence in concrete pools.