The beluga whale who inspired the popular children’s song “Baby Beluga,” died this week at the Vancouver Aquarium. At 46 years old, she spent her entire life at the aquarium, and lived much longer than the average beluga whale. She died Monday afternoon at the aquarium.
A preliminary autopsy shows Kavna likely died of cancer. Aquarium veterinarian Dr. Martin Haulena told reporters the lesions and tumors he found “are most consistent with cancer, and that is unfortunately a disease we associate with age,” Citytv reports. Belugas typically live 25 to 30 years.
Since 1979, Kavna has been associated with the song “Baby Beluga,” about a baby whale playing in the sea. Singer/songwriter Raffi Cavoukian visited the aquarium, and was inspired to write the song about a baby beluga like Kavna:
“Baby beluga in the deep blue sea, swim so wild and you swim so free. Heaven above and the sea below, and a little white whale on the go.”
Cavoukian told Vancouver’s News1130 he was inspired to write the song after the whale’s trainer helped him play with Kavna.
“She had a profound impact on me when I met her in 1979,” Cavoukian said. “Kavna even came out of the water and placed a gentle, graceful kiss on my cheek and I couldn’t stop talking about it for a couple weeks.”
The song is about a free whale living in the sea, although Kavna spent her entire life in captivity.
“That encounter inspired the song ‘Baby Beluga,’ and as I like to say, the song set the whale free,” Cavoukian told News1130. “Life is complex and it brings us situations that have silver linings and give us something that they wouldn’t ordinarily have given.”
Cavoukian told the Vancouver Sun it was tough hearing the news of Kavna’s passing.
“I felt sad and I also felt a lot of joy for the privilege of having gotten to know her and the fact that she stirred me to write that song,” he told the Vancouver Sun.
Kavna was the most famous of the beluga whales at the aquarium, largely due to that song. The aquarium estimates more than 30 million people have seen Kavna, the Vancouver Sun reports. She was even featured on a Canadian postages tamp in 2006 to mark the aquarium’s 50th anniversary.
Further tests are planned on Kavna, to rule out other possible causes of death, like bacteria and fungi. Kavna was the third beluga to die at the aquarium in recent years.
There are two beluga whales still at the aquarium, a mother and daughter named Aurora and Qila.