No cause of death yet for aquarium belugas, but facility to expand its exhibit

Vancouver aquarium officials say they still don't know what killed two beluga whales last year, but the facility is pushing ahead with plans to expand its beluga conservation program.

Aquarium CEO John Nightengale says the work it does with this vulnerable species is critical and as a marine science centre with conservation as its mission, they believe they have an obligation to continue that work.

Nightingale says they intend to phase out the program and it will no longer hold belugas after 2029.

The aquariums two belugas, 21-year-old called Qila and her mother, 30-year-old Aurora, died nine days apart last November from a mysterious illness and officials say they still haven't ruled out ``malicious action.''

Head veterinarian Martin Haulena says some results are still pending and a toxin is the most likely cause, but they haven't been able to pinpoint the source despite over $100,000 spent on testing.

The new Canada's Arctic exhibit will house three to five non-breeding whales in an expanded habitat and will include a team of first responders whose roles will be to take on emergencies for stranded, sick or injured marine mammals.