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Shedd Aquarium Mourns Loss of Kukdlaa

Shedd Aquarium, a leader in animal care and welfare, is deeply saddened to announce the loss of Kukdlaa (KOOK-dlah), a male Pacific white-sided dolphin (Lagenorhynchus obliquidens).

December 13, 2019

Katrl's calf, Kukdlaa, only three months old in this photo, was born looking like a half-sized version of his mother.

Shedd Aquarium, a leader in animal care and welfare, is deeply saddened to announce the loss of Kukdlaa (KOOK-dlah), a male Pacific white-sided dolphin (Lagenorhynchus obliquidens). The three-year-old dolphin died unexpectedly Wednesday.

An abrupt decrease in appetite Tuesday evening prompted care givers to quickly move Kukdlaa to a medical pool for continual observation by the animal care team. Within 12 hours, the dolphin rapidly declined and passed away despite attempts by the care team to revive and resuscitate him. While ongoing tests may provide Shedd’s veterinary team additional information, early indications from blood pathology suggest an acute infection may have been the contributing cause.

“It is a very sad day for the entire animal loving and ocean advocate community. Despite Shedd Aquarium’s exceptional care and welfare, we lost an animal. We are shocked and devastated,” said Peggy Sloan, Chief Animal Operations Officer for Shedd Aquarium. “Every loss is hard – no matter how long the relationship or species – but especially when nature takes a sudden and unexpected course. We will miss this special animal and yet remain grateful for the time we had to learn from him and with him.”

As Pacific white-sided dolphins are rarely observed giving birth in the wild, video of Kukdlaa’s birth in April 2016 gave hundreds of thousands of people an extraordinary and unique window into the deep, open-water species’ biology and science, and provided aquarium researchers valuable data about the reproductive process to inform applied management strategies for wild populations.

More than 10,000 schoolchildren engaged in learning about Pacific white-sided dolphins through Kukdlaa’s public naming later that year. In doing so, they were able to learn about an indigenous people of the Pacific Northwest where the species is abundantly found, their native language of Tlingit in which the several name choices were derived, local culture and where Pacific white-sided dolphins are on our blue planet.