It’s with immense sadness that we share the passing of beluga whale Aurora. As detailed last week and through daily updates on her condition, Aurora had been sick for the past two weeks, showing symptoms of abdominal cramping, loss of appetite and lethargy. Our marine mammal care team, under the guidance of head veterinarian Dr. Martin Haulena, and a host of veterinary specialists, pathologists, marine biologists and other experts from around-the-world, had been working relentlessly to provide treatment, investigate her symptoms, adjust her medication, and ensure she had therapeutic care.

After a determined around-the-clock effort by animal care staff and the veterinary team, she slipped away this evening surrounded by the people who loved her, some whom have cared for her since she first arrived in 1990. To our team, Aurora was a part of our family and her loss is absolutely heartbreaking. The marine mammal care team working night and day to care for her are our true heroes, even if we lost the battle.

We will continue to explore the cause or causes of Qila and Aurora’s sudden illness — a necropsy will be conducted by Dr. Haulena and he will continue to consult with other specialists across the globe as we continue the investigation.

Named after the aurora borealis, or northern lights, Aurora immediately won hearts and inspired generations of visitors, employees and volunteers with her curious nature and gentle personality. Along with the other belugas at the Aquarium, including her daughter Qila, Aurora taught millions about her incredible species and its rapidly changing ecosystem in the wild. The whales have contributed to studies on their physiology, hearing and acoustic abilities; provided baseline data for studies in the wild; and helped scientists discover unique vocalizations between beluga whale mothers and calves, called contact calls. This groundbreaking research began at Vancouver Aquarium in 2002; beluga whales Aurora and Qila contributed to those early studies.


The past two weeks have been extremely difficult and today’s loss has left a hole in our hearts. On behalf of our team of 1,500 staff and volunteers, we’d like to thank everyone who has reached out to us with warm messages of support and offers of help. You’ve shared countless stories of how Aurora and Qila have impacted you and your family and we’re grateful to everyone who has shared those connections with us. Please continue doing so.


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26 Responses

  1. Derrick Penn

    We are so sad and sickened for the loss of Aurora and Qila. The Vancouver Aquarium is a wonderful place for young and old. We know how much all of the staff cared for these wonderful Beluga’s. We write this from Calgary, and truly wish we were there to drop by and offer our appreciation and support. We had been coming annually when visiting my parents who lived in the West End. The Aquarium was also a place of healing for us when my Mom passed away in December of 2014. We came for the private behind the scenes tours you offered. I thought it would be a fitting and very nice change of pace for my two daughters, after having to deal with the sudden loss of their Grandmother (losing their other Grandma just a month earlier back home in Calgary). My daughter Emma and I took part in the Beluga event, while my wife Kelly and our daughter Caitlyn visited with the dolphins. For all the doubters of what really goes on in this aquarium, I can only say it was an incredible experience. You take such good care of these special mammals, and have such concern for their safety and well being. The feeding area in the back where you keep the food is so clean and supervised very closely to maintain your extremely high standard of safety and prevention, that I don’t believe hospitals are even close to this standard of cleanliness and care. We had to wear special boots and clothing, and were constantly observed to make sure we all towed the line. And being able to then feed the Beluga’s, and touch them, and be so close to such awesome beings, is something we will always remember.

    We haven’t figured out yet how to explain this to our daughters. My first thoughts as well were that they were tampered with, which makes us sick to think about.

    My daughter Emma, now 10, was diagnosed with lupus when she was 6, and through this difficult time, we have been able to visit the aquarium 3 or 4 times. The Beluga’s were her absolute favourite. She hated to leave. And will be so devastated when she learns about what happened. I don’t even know how to attempt to tell her, knowing she will be so incredibly sad and devastated.

    We really want to let you know, and as you are seeing, that so many people are concerned about the many many staff, and are heartbroken for you. Watching on the news how you tried to save Aurora and Qila, and knowing how you cared for them over many years, we are very proud of you, and so sad for you.

    Words cannot express the many feelings of sadness, anger, and regret of the loss of these special whales. I saw the passion on the news this evening, of the Dr’s emotions and extreme passion for what may have happened.

    We wish you well during this time, and we look forward to when we can come back and visit. Take care of yourselves, we hope you can heal sooner then later, knowing it won’t be easy. Please do take pride in what you do, and don’t doubt what you do. You are all passionate and love the aquarium. And we love coming to see you.

    We hope to come and see you again soon!

    From Calgary,

    Derrick, Kelly, Caitlyn and Emma

    • Vancouver Aquarium

      Thank you so much for taking the time to share your love for the belugas and the special part they played in helping your family get through difficult times. We are grateful for your support and we hope your daughters cherish the wonderful memories of their time spent connecting with the belugas, as we do. We hope to see you and your family here again soon.

  2. Kyle and Caroline

    We were heartbroken to hear about the passing of both Qila and Aurora. It has been a month to the day that we met Aurora during our encounter. She was gorgeous and vibrant. It was very evident that she loved interacting with Phil and was kind enough to let us get to know her too. It was very clear to us that the staff loved these two and did all they could to make sure they were well cared for. We spoke at length with Kristen about the valuable knowledge that has been gained studying belugas, especially from Aurora and Qila. It is an experience we will forever cherish. Our hearts go out the lovely staff, especially Phil and Kristen.

  3. jennifer

    I can’t express how sad I am about you losing both Aurora and Qila. It is made even worse by the fact that others can not see the pain you are all going through. Please know that all of you are in my prayers as you continue to grieve. I have a message for those who are protesting, go and do something useful with your time like maybe clean up a beach or help volunteer at an animal shelter that way your message won’t be in vain.

  4. Tammy, Arianna, Jacob & Faith

    I visited the Aquarium frequently as a child and I have been bringing my children for the past 10 years. We have always adored the belugas and are so sad at Qila and now Aurora’s passing. I have a picture somewhere of my oldest at about age 2 with her face pressed up against the glass watching in fascination as Aurora and Qila kept swimming by. Heartfelt condolences to you and your staff.

  5. Wanda Riches

    My heart goes out to all the staff to the Aquarium. Despite debates about whales in captivity, I know these animals were very loved and every effort was made to keep them happy and healthy. My sincerest condolences.

  6. Michelle

    We are so saddened by the sudden loss of Aurora and Qila. One of our favourite things to do of all time was what we called ‘snack with the belugas’. Before the kids started elementary school, we’d often plan our morning around having snacks on the bench in front of the floor to ceiling viewing window. Those were magical and unforgettable moments, watching those beautiful creatures with awe and respect, as they swam, played, and blew bubbles. Their passing is an incredible loss for all of us who were fortunate enough to be touched by these amazing animals. My sincere condolences to the staff and volunteers.

  7. Amie

    So incredibly saddened to hear this news. My sincerest condolences to all of you at the aquarium who cared for Aurora and Qila. My daughter loved sitting on the concrete steps with a snack to just watch the belugas swim. We will miss those quiet moments with your beautiful belugas.

  8. Robert Beischer

    My son is 3 and is completely heartbroken as are my wife and I. We have been visiting the Aquarium regularly for 2 years. (by regular ly i mean a min of twice a month) The Aquarium is a second home to us. Part of our routine is to have lunch with the belugas. “Go see boogas” was one of my sons first phrases. Out hearts and love go to all of those who are hurting at this loss.

  9. Melanie McCune

    With deep sorrow to the Vancouver Aquarium Staff on the passing of Aurora and Qila, whom I know were like family. I appreciate the educational work you have done on behalf of Beluga whales both captive & wild. In the 90’s I lived in North Vancouver & almost every week I’d travel by bus for a short walk around Stanley Park, always making a special visit to the outside viewing area that use to connect to the aquarium as I couldn’t afford a membership. I’d sit for hours on the centre wall feeding seeds to the peacocks & watch with enormous respect & love for Aurora, Qila, Allua, Kavna & occasionally Nanuq & Grayson. As people came & went, gathering esp. during the educational showings, I enjoyed many moments with Aurora & her then baby Qila. When Qila began venturing from her mom her curiosity would draw her to where I sat. I’d stand at the glass wall & visualize communications of hugs & gliding through the water with her & the others, while many times using sign language to say I loved them. To my delight they would glide over with their heads pointed towards me & stay for quite some time in that one spot, while occasionally tilting their heads with eye contact. My heart always swelled full with deep gratitude & emotion for the opportunity the Aquarium gifted me & so many others to interact with these beautiful beings. I will miss Aurora & Qila along with the other marine animals at the Aquarium who have gone before them, but I will always have those wonderful memories of visiting & secretly sharing a bond that would not have happened if not for the Aquarium. ❤️

  10. Ariel

    I’m speechless and in tears. I can’t believe they are gone. I loved having our lovely beluga whales here in Vancouver. My condolences for the team who cared for Aurora and Qila so diligently the past two weeks.

  11. Stephanie

    I am so sorry for Aurora and Qila. I also feel very bad for the staff at Vancouver aquarium. I know that you have done everything in your abilities. Thank you for all that you do. It’s because of you that I want to be a marine biologist when I grow up.

  12. Dorothy Young

    Thank you for caring for Aurora and her family over the years. I will never forget my beluga encounter! We, the public, are indebted to all of the care givers, trainers, veterinarians, researchers, interpreters, volunteers, and marine mammal care team at Vanaqua. Hugs and thank you.

  13. Alicia Curry

    My world is shattered knowing Aurora is no longer with us, my condolences to the staff who have been with her through everything and a million thank you’s to those who tried day in and day out to save her, she was so beautiful inside and out and is forever loved and missed deeply. I grew up with aurora and she has given me wonderful memories that will last a lifetime!

  14. Jacqueline (mom) and Sydney (7th grader; 12 years old)

    I am so sorry to hear about Aurora and Qila. I never had the chance to meet the mother or her calf, (because I live in the U.S.) but I remember seeing them on the live beluga cam. I hope that the marine biologist doctors, find out what is wrong with Aurora and Qila, and that they won’t let it affect the other beluga whales. I hope to be just like the marine biologist doctors someday, when I become a marine biologist and work with beluga whales.

  15. Nancy Skjonhals

    My sympathy for all the staff who worked so hard and bonded with these amazing animals. I don’t support most zoos and aquariums because I don’t believe that they put the animals best welfare first, but I have a great deal of respect for the staff at the Vancouver Aquarium. I know that, once you have had some time to deal with your grief, you will consider your next move with the welfare of animals first and foremost. Thanks for all you do for these animals.

  16. Alec

    I’m really heartbroken by the sad news about Qila and Aurora. I’ve only met them last year during my trip to Vancouver and been watching them regulary with the beluga cam. Belugas have been my favorite animals ever since my aunt showed me her pictures taken at the Vancouver Aquarium and made me discover these amazing and beautiful little white whales. Coming to Vancouver and seeing them so close was a dream come true, I’ll never forget them.
    Thank you to the team for all your efforts

  17. Karen

    Thank you for working so hard for Aurora and Qila. I’m glad they had the best of care throughout their lives. I will miss watching them glide through their pool. You should be proud of all that you did for those beautiful ladies.

  18. Beth Stewart

    As a Grandmother, I have often brought my Grandkids to see the Beluga whales, so that they could learn and understand them. It is terribly sad for us to hear what has happened to them. Be strong, Aquarium staff; we know you would have done all you could to save them.

  19. Deidre magee

    I am truly heartbroken for all of you at the aquarium in the loss of your two beloved belugas Aurora and Qila. Especially to their handlers as I am sure this loss I’ll be felt for a long time to come. Your work has not gone unnoticed but a great number of people and your dedication to marine life is to be commended. Wishing you kind thoughts at your time of loss.

  20. Jo-Anne

    Sorry to hear about both Aurora and Qila. I know how hard it will hit your staff and the care they gave those beautiful animals. Your staff always did a wonderful job. I’m Australian and my first meeting with any Beluga Whales was with Kavna and Aurora. I feel in love with them instantly and have followed them for over 20 years. About 7 years ago I returned to Canada and had a beluga encounter with Qila and Imaq. Aurora was in the background but still a favourite. As a teacher your webcam was wonderful, my classes watched as their calves were born, as both girls grew whiter as they aged and now will mourn their passing. A long distance love affair sadly ends.

  21. Kayla

    My heart breaks at the loss of Aurora and is because of those two beautiful girls that I feel in love with whales of all species. I’ll truly miss them in my future visits. My thoughts are with the staff who were with her..


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