Just a few hours ago at the Vancouver Aquarium, staff watched breathlessly as 20 year old beluga whale Aurora gave birth to a calf. Like all baby belugas, the calf was born with large wrinkles which disappear over the first few weeks.
The unnamed calf will be sharing its enclosure with another calf born in the fall of last year named Tiqa. Researchers are interested to see how the two calves interact and we hope to bring you pictures soon.
Video of actual birth can be watched below the fold. Be warned though: like most mammal births, it's a messy (but joyous!) process.
BELUGA WHALE AURORA, GIVES BIRTH TO FEMALE CALF
Birth occurred at 3:39pm June 7 in a rare and wondrous moment
Vancouver, BC – The Vancouver Aquarium’s marine mammal care and veterinary teams, staff and volunteers, are delighted to announce that Aurora, a 20 year old beluga whale, gave birth today.
The amazing event occurred at 3:39pm (PST) after a 3-hour labour. The Aquarium’s veterinary team has determined with 90% certainty the calf is female (it can be up to 6 months before gender determination becomes certain). Immediately following her birth, the calf swam right up to the surface of the water for her first breaths, the first of many critical milestones in the development of a newborn calf. Aurora’s natural maternal instincts were also immediately evident as she instinctively picked up her calf, guided her to the surface for breaths, and swam continuously with her by her side.
The calf and mother are doing well and will remain under 24-hour observation by
the Aquarium’s veterinary and marine mammal care teams. The first 12-24 hours following birth is a key observation period for critical milestones for the calf and its relationship with the mother including bonding and nursing. Veterinary staff estimate the calf’s length to be 1.5 metres (~5 feet) and her weight to be 60-70kg (132-154lbs). The new baby is a slate, smoky grey colour which will gradually lighten as the whale matures; calves are normally quite wrinkled for the first several weeks.
“This is an exciting time for everyone – Aurora, her calf, our other belugas and certainly for Aquarium staff, volunteers and the community-at-large. Aurora and her calf are coming along nicely together. There are several critical milestones for the calf to reach over the next few days and weeks,” said Dr. Marty Haulena, Staff Veterinarian, Vancouver Aquarium. “Aurora has proven herself to be a great mother in the past and today we’ve already observed her maternal instincts come to the fore. She’s doing just a great job so far.”
Vancouver Aquarium members and visitors will be able to view Aurora and her yet-to-be-named calf from 5 or 6 metres away on the upper deck of the Beluga habitat. Marine mammal care staff and researchers will observe behaviours and interactions, while interpretive staff will present what is learned to visitors providing an engaging and rare educational opportunity.