Pt. Defiance Zoo sending away their last beluga

TACOMA -- It's bye-bye Beethoven in Tacoma.

The Point Defiance Zoo announced Wednesday they are sending their last Beluga Whale to Texas.

"It is, it is...difficult," said Gary Geddes, director of zoological and environmental education for Metro Parks Tacoma.

Beethoven's Beluga companion, Quannik, died in March of a blood infection, leaving the 16-year-old male alone in his tank.

"We're not getting any hope in the short term that we'd find a companion for him here," explained Geddes.

Instead, Sea World San Antonio has asked Point Defiance to transfer Beethoven to their care for possible breeding.

"It's best for him to be with a larger group," said Geddes, who has asked Sea World to consider taking Beethoven as early as next week.

Once Beethoven leaves, it would be the first time Point Defiance has been without a whale for any length of time since they got their first Beluga in the late 1980s. Beethoven has been in Tacoma since 1998 and has consistently been one of the biggest crowd draws.

Geddes says while a short term whale replacement looks impossible, they aren't sure about the long term outlook.

In the meantime, with a few modifications, Beethoven's tank could house sea lions trapped by Fish and Wildlife officials at Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River.