Whale That Inspired 'Baby Beluga' Song Dies

08/10/2012 at 06:45 AM EDT

Beluga Whale That Inspired Song Baby Beluga Dies
Kavna and Raffi
Courtesy Raffi Cavoukian
After experiencing a sudden decline in her health, Kavna, a 46-year-old beluga whale residing at Vancouver Aquarium, died on Monday, with a necropsy later showing cancerous lesions.

The whale served as the inspiration for the children's song "Baby Beluga," about an imaginary whale that swims wild and free in the ocean. The song was penned by Canadian artist Raffi Cavoukian after he met Kavna in 1979.

"She had a profound impact on me," he told Canadian radio station News 1130. "[Kavna] came out of the water and placed a gentle, graceful kiss on my cheek and I couldn't stop talking about it for a couple of weeks! That encounter inspired the song "Baby Beluga," and as I like to say, the song set the whale free."

Echoing Cavoukian's sentiments, Clint Wright, the Vancouver Aquarium's general manager, called Kavna "one of the favorites for the trainers to work with," in a press conference, adding that the aquarium's staff remain in shock over her death.

"It was very sudden, it was very acute and happened so quickly," he said. "She's been so robust for so long, we believed she was impervious to everything. It was a great shock to everybody."

Can't get enough pet news? See more on PEOPLE Pets

Matthew McConaughey Catches Rays with Dog Foxy

Polite Bear Raids Chocolate Store

Your Reaction

Follow Us

On Newsstands Now

Lupita Nyong'o: Most Beautiful!
  • Lupita Nyong'o: Most Beautiful!
  • Chelsea Clinton is Pregnant!
  • Exclusive Royal Tour Diary

Pick up your copy on newsstands

Click here for instant access to the Digital Magazine

blog comments powered by Disqus

From Our Partners

Watch It

Latest Photos

Stars and Their Pets

Gavin's Pooch Pick-Me-Up

From Our Partners

Sign up for our daily newsletter and other special offers.
    Choose your newsletters
Thank you for signing up! Your request may take up to one week to be processed.
    see all newsletters