- Associated Press - Friday, June 5, 2015

ATLANTA (AP) - A young beluga calf, heralded as a milestone for whales born in captivity, died Friday morning in Atlanta.

The female calf, not yet a month old, died Friday morning next to her mother Georgia Aquarium officials said in an emailed statement.

When the whale was born May 10, aquarium officials called it the first “viable calf” to be delivered from parents who were born in captivity.

Preliminary tests show that the calf may have had gastrointestinal problems and difficulty digesting nutrients, aquarium spokeswoman Jessica Fontana said in a 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,” the aquarium’s Senior Vice President and Chief Veterinary Officer Gregory Bossart said.

A necropsy will be conducted, but the calf’s exact cause of death may never be clear, officials said. The evaluation will be executed by aquarium staff and outside animal health specialists.

The calf’s mother, Maris, was born at the New York Aquarium and delivered a female calf in 2012 that died days after birth. The calf’s father, Beethoven, was born at SeaWorld San Antonio. The calf had not yet been named. Aquarium officials were planning a naming contest, spokeswoman Paige Hale said in an email.

Georgia Animal Rights and Protection issued an emailed statement Friday afternoon saying activists were planning a demonstration Saturday outside Georgia Aquarium to protest the calf’s death and captive whale and dolphin programs. The event is part of an annual demonstration titled Empty Tanks Worldwide, officials said.

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