Chance To Name 3 Beluga Whales Will Be Auctioned Off By The Aquarium

To generate money for their care and to offset the cost of shipping them from Canada, a Connecticut aquarium wants to sell off the right to name three of its five newly arrived beluga whales.

The Sea Research Foundation has joined up with Guernsey’s, a New York-based auction house, to host a fundraising auction on Aug. 19 at the Mystic Aquarium, which it owns and runs, according to President and CEO Stephen Coan.

“The three whales will be given stage names, and they will be referred to by those names in the future,” he explained. “In the past, we’ve named various creatures, and people are ecstatic about the prospect. It truly integrates the animals into the community, and the community feels a part of the process of receiving new animals.”

The aquarium is hoping to raise $4 million at the auction, which will include donated art, possibly a boat or vintage car, and some unique experiences, such as educational dive trips with scientists to places like the Atlantic Ocean’s undersea Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument, according to Coan.

He estimates that caring for the belugas will cost the aquarium $5 million a year. This includes roughly $250,000 per year for each animal’s food and veterinary care, as well as expenditures involved with maintaining the habitat and conducting research.

Last month, the charity spent millions of dollars moving the whales from Marineland in Niagara Falls, Ontario, using custom-made stretchers and special tanks inside a C-130 cargo jet, according to Coan.

Mystic Aquarium, which specializes in whale research, spent months obtaining the necessary permissions from both countries and overcoming opposition from animal rights groups.

The auction announcement comes on the same day that the three current beluga whales — Kela, Juno, and Natasha — were fully incorporated into the main portion of the aquarium’s 750,000-gallon beluga exhibit.

All of the whales are acclimating well and are in good condition, according to Coan, but one had to be treated for a pre-existing stomach problem.

Juno has been speaking with them via the barrier that has kept them separated for the previous five weeks and has been extremely friendly, according to Coan. Kelo appeared “a little bit offended at first” to be sharing her territory with Natasha, who seemed indifferent to the newcomers and a little surprised by the integration.

He remarked, “They’re beginning to know one other now, so it’s quite a sight.”

Positive reward — a fish, a tongue massage, or a nice item to play with — will quickly begin training the newcomers to willingly help in research. They will serve as a baseline against which wild belugas will be compared while evaluating their health and immune systems.

According to Coan, the aquarium has rules on what the whales can be named. Names that are corporate or derogatory, for example, are not permitted.

The names of the other two whales will be chosen by the general public through contests that the aquarium hopes to hold beginning in August, including one that will be part of a state-wide teaching program, according to Coan.

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