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Beluga dies at Shedd Aquarium

Puiji 25 one Shedd Aquarium’s belugwhales died suddenly about 8 p.m. Wednesday after experiencing erratic movements followed by seizure. Puiji

Puiji, 25, one of the Shedd Aquarium’s beluga whales, died suddenly at about 8 p.m. Wednesday after experiencing erratic movements followed by a seizure. Puiji is shown in this 2005 photo after her second pregnancy was announced. Photo by Jean Lachat/Sun-

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Updated: January 23, 2012 4:10AM

One of the Shedd Aquarium’s beluga whales died suddenly Wednesday evening after experiencing erratic movements followed by a seizure.

Trainers and the veterinary staff attempted to resuscitate Puiji for 45 minutes. The seizure happened around 8 p.m., after the Shedd was closed to visitors.

Puiji, 25, mother to two of the Shedd’s six remaining beluga whales, suffered from an infection that was being treated for several months, said Andrea Smalec, Shedd’s spokeswoman. Her recovery from the infection was slower than expected, but aquarium staff believed she was being treated successfully, she said.

A necropsy didn’t indicate that Puiji’s unexpected death was related to the infection, Smalec said. Preliminary necropsy findings showed abnormal changes in Puiji’s spleen and lymph nodes, but Smalec said it was too early to determine the exact cause of death.

In a statement, Ken Ramirez, executive vice president of animal care and training, said that late Tuesday Puiji (Poo-EE-gee) began “to show signs of a rapid decline in health.”

“Based on our knowledge of her behavior throughout her long life, we knew something was wrong,” he said in a statement, adding that it was “an extremely sad day for the Shedd Aquarium family.”

Shedd officials said the typical life span of a beluga in a zoo or aquarium is 25 to 30 years.

Puiji was 3 years old when she arrived at the Shedd in 1989. She was the mother to Bella, 5, and Nunavik, who turns two in December. Both Bella and Nunavik are currently at the Shedd.

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