The Shedd Aquarium family is mourning the loss of Puiji, one of the original animals in our beluga group. The 25-year-old whale died Wednesday evening. Puiji had been part of Shedd’s animal collection since 1989 and was here when the Oceanarium opened.
Ken Ramirez, executive vice president of animal care and training, said that his staff and the animal health team had been monitoring Puiji for several months because of a health issue that they were treating.
Wednesday, a change in the beluga’s behaviors signaled a rapid decline in her health, and despite nonstop emergency care, she experienced an arresting seizure. The veterinarians worked for 45 minutes to resuscitate Puiji, to no avail.
Preliminary findings of a necropsy performed at Shedd found changes in several of the whale’s organs that had not been evident in repeated health assessments. Additional tests will be conducted to see if the findings are related to advanced age or other factors. As is often the case, however, a specific cause of death may never fully be determined.
Biologists don’t know how long belugas live in the wild. In aquariums and zoos, they can live to be 25 to 30 years old although, as with people, longevity varies with individuals.
Puiji will be deeply missed by everyone who knew her.