Qannik Dies of Unknown Illness
Brian Everstine; THE NEWS TRIBUNE
Qannik, one of the most famous residents of Tacoma’s Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium, died Saturday evening. He was 8.
Aquarium officials became concerned when Qannik began to lose interest in food on March 15. Officials were preparing to move him to a warmer pool Saturday, but he began to “spiral out of control very quickly,” Point Defiance Deputy Director John Houck said. He died at about 6:20 p.m.
“It is a big and devastating loss to us,” he said. “He was a great animal. He really was.”
Officials were helping Qannik eat, while experts from a Chicago aquarium and Sea World in San Diego tried to determine what was ailing the whale.
“This illness has been very frustrating because we still don’t know what the cause is,” Houck said.
Officials were preparing to perform a necropsy on the whale Saturday night, but results would not be available immediately.
Qannik (pronounced kah-NIK) came to Tacoma in 2007 from Chicago’s John G. Shedd Aquarium. He is the offspring of Mayauk, a former Point Defiance resident who was later moved to the Shedd Aquarium.
Mayauk lost two newborn calves during her stay in Tacoma, and a third died in Chicago. She gave birth to Qannik in 2000.
The aquarium has one remaining beluga, Beethoven. The two have been a beloved fixture in the zoo for the past few years.
“Belugas are certainly one of our high-profile species,” Houck said. “It’s a significant loss to our family here, to our collection. He was an animal who was well loved not only by the staff of the zoo but also to the community.”
Officials said last week that Qannik was showing some signs of improvement, such as increased interaction with Beethoven and an improved white blood cell count, but he faded quickly on Saturday.
“I’m really proud of the staff, of the efforts we put in,” Houck said. “I honestly believe we did everything we possibly could to turn this situation around.”