The beluga whale that was the inspiration for "Baby Beluga," the hit song from children's singer Raffi, died Monday at the Vancouver Aquarium from cancer caused by old age, the aquarium said. She was 46.
Kavna, the female beluga whale, was no baby when she died, however.
Dr. Martin Haulena told the Vancouver Sun that beluga whales like Kavna usually live until 30 years old and the beluga whale far surpassed that life expectancy when she died Monday at age 46.
The cancer suspected of causing Kavna's death was linked to old age, Haulena said.
"Right now, the lesions are most consistent with a cancer, and that is unfortunately a disease we associate with age," he said Tuesday. "So we're looking at a great life for a great whale who had almost nothing wrong with her."
Haulena said Kavna's health took a turn for the worst last week, when fluid and other debris built up in her reproductive system, according to the Sun.
The whale was brought to the aquarium in 1976 after it was captured in Churchill in the Canadian province of Manitoba, the Sun reported. It was the first whale to be featured at the aquarium.
Raffi, whose full name is Raffi Cavoukian, recalled meeting Kavna during a visit to the Vancouver Aquarium. The meeting inspired Raffi to record the song, "Baby Beluga," which became a hit with children in 1977.
"It was my first time at the aquarium, and I was very fortunate that I got to be taken pool-side and the trainer helped me play with Kavna," Cavoukian told the Sun Tuesday. "She was just so beautiful. She was so playful and she had a very pure spirit and you could swear she smiled at you."
Cavoukian said he felt a mix of emotions as he learned of the beluga whale's death.
"I felt sad and I also felt a lot of joy for the privilege of having gotten to know her and the fact that she stirred me to write that song," he said.
"Baby Beluga" begins with whale sounds and while the song is not specifically about Kavna, Raffi said he was moved to write and record the song because of his interactions with her.
The Sun said an estimated 30 million people visited Kavna since she was first brought to the Vancouver Aquarium.