The beluga whale calf born at Georgia Aquarium less than a month ago died next to her mother on Friday, days after she had stopped eating and showed signs of extreme distress, according to a statement released by the aquarium.
Aquarium staff members were ecstatic when the calf was born to 20-year-old Maris on May 10, heralding the newborn as the first "viable calf" to be delivered from parents born in captivity, according to the New York Times.
Earlier tests indicated that the calf may have had some sort of gastrointestinal problem and was struggling to absorb the nutrients she needed to grow and survive, said Jessica Fontana, spokeswoman for the Georgia Aquarium, in the statement.
"Early on, we were pleased to see the calf complete several key milestones, including a successful birth and bonding with her mother. There were still some critical milestones to overcome, however, and we became concerned when we were not seeing the desired weight gain in the calf," stated Georgia Aquarium's Senior VP and Chief Veterinary Officer Gregory Bossart.
The aquarium will be conducting a necropsy to determine the cause of the death over the next few weeks, with a possibility that results may be inconclusive, reported Reuters.
"Even though this calf had a short life, Georgia Aquarium had the rare opportunity to advance our knowledge about the reproductive health of beluga whales. We can share this with other accredited aquariums that care for belugas. By continuing to share and collaborate, we can collectively continue to advance and improve the care we provide to belugas," said the aquarium.