A young male beluga whale born at the Shedd Aquarium died Saturday night at a Connecticut aquarium, where he was taking part in a breeding consortium.
Miki died of “complications from a prolonged illness,” Shedd officials said in a statement Sunday.
“His passing is heartbreaking to our team who loved and cared for him since he was born right here in the Oceanarium,” said Maris Muzzy, a manager who worked for eight years with Miki. His name translates to “little” in the Inuit language near the Arctic Ocean off Canada where belugas are found.
The lively beluga would mimic the behaviors of the dolphins and learned to jump out of the water “almost as high and as gracefully as they do – quite the accomplishment for a beluga whale,” Muzzy said.
The beluga species, know for their constantly smiling mouths and a vocal range earning them the moniker “the canaries of the sea,” is classified as “near threatened” with a declining population in the wild.