GEORGIA AQUARIUM Much-loved Beluga Whale Gasper Dies
GEORGIA AQUARIUM Much-loved Beluga Whale GASPER Dies
The much beloved beluga whale Gasper was euthanized on Tuesday at the Georgia Aquarium. He'd been struggling with disease and infection since he was rescued from a Mexico City amusement park a year and a half ago.It might seem a bit over the top to some to mourn the death of an animal -- especially in light of the images from former president Gerald Ford’s funeral gracing television screens across the country. But to many, Gasper was more than just an animal. People loved him, and would have happily used that love to heal him if they could.
Despite Gasper's struggles to overcome the infections that pounded his immune system, there was something about him.Brought to Atlanta in October 2005, he was taken off exhibit last April. He would make progress in fighting his infections, and then would backslide. About two weeks ago, he stopped eating on his own, and then on New Year's Day, the Aquarium staff made the tough decision.
“We were seeing indications that his body was shutting down,” said Aquarium Director of Husbandry Tim Binder. “And in that process, we also saw him become more despondent -- not unlike a family pet that gets that gets old -- same type of scenario."Visitors can sign their names and write their thoughts in books placed in front of the beluga exhibit.
Christine Clark heard the news and brought her children to the Aquarium on Tuesday.“That’s why we came today,” she said. “And we found out about the loss, I had a sadness in my heart, because whenever you lose a person or an animal, there is a bereavement process. And we're very sad to see the animal gone." Aquariums expect to lose animals, but losing Gasper hit the Georgia Aquarium staff hard. They will work just as hard to make sure Gasper leaves a tangible legacy.“The type of illnesses that he has, can occur again,” said Aquarium President Jeff Swanagan. “So there's a learning curve that one has to go through, and maybe good information will come yet, and be able to help other beluga whales."But for now, people are remembering the beluga that seemed to look you in the eye and smile.Aquarium biologists and veterinarians expect the information they get from Gasper's autopsy -- called a necropsy for animals -- will break new ground in science and help determine the care for whales and dolphins in the future.The staff will get together on Tuesday night, have a good cry, and then move on to take care of the rest of these beautiful animals.Gasper was brought from a Mexican amusement park, along with Nico. Both whales were 17 years old and around 12 feet long. Nico was brought to Atlanta in much better health and is doing fine.