On Memorial Day Monday, at around 10:30pm, Chicago's Shedd Aquarium welcomed a new-born Pacific White-sided Dolphin calf to its Oceanarium. Shortly after the birth, the calf swam to the surface, took its first breath, and began to swim and bond with its mother. The gender of the calf has yet to be determined. Animal care staff estimate the calf to be approximately 3-feet in length and weigh approximately 25-pounds. While mother and calf appear to be doing well, this is a critical time for both, and aquarists will monitor them around the clock for several months.
In 1993, the United Nations banned certain types of fishing nets that had previously caused the unnecessary deaths of thousands of these intelligent sea creatures. Pacific White-sided Dolphins are still killed needlessly by Japanese hunting drives.
Piquest and her calf swimming
A video of Shedd's Beluga whale family watching Piquet and her calf
More photos and information about the birth beneath the fold...
CHICAGO – Shedd Aquarium’s Pacific white-sided dolphin Piquet (pee-KEHT) gave birth on Memorial Day – Monday, May 28, at 10:34 p.m. Both mother and calf appear to be doing well and will remain under 24-hour observation by Shedd’s animal care staff for several months.
Shortly after the birth, the calf swam to the surface, took its first breath, and began to swim and bond with its mother. The gender of the calf has yet to be determined. Animal care staff estimate the calf to be approximately 3-feet in length and weigh approximately 25-pounds. The gestation period for Pacific white-sided dolphins is around 12 months.
“We are thrilled about the birth; however, a calf must reach several milestones in its first days and months. We know that female Pacific white-sided dolphins in the wild and in aquariums and zoos commonly lose their first calf during pregnancy or during their first year of life,” said Ken Ramirez, Shedd’s Executive Vice President of Animal Care and Training.
The new calf must overcome a number of challenging milestones, such as continuing to bond with its mother, learning to nurse, and later, learning to feed independently. Animal care and animal health staffs are using the knowledge gained through previous births and the cooperative breeding program to help the mother and calf through these important milestones.
Piquet’s pregnancy is the result of a cooperative breeding program with Miami Seaquarium. There are fewer than 20 Pacific white-sided dolphins in North American facilities. According to Ramirez, strategic partnerships with organizations like the Miami Seaquarium and other leading aquariums around the world are critical to learning more about this rarely studied marine mammal.
Piquet is 24-years-old and weighs 200-pounds. This is the first pregnancy and calf birth for Piquet, whose name means “female of small stature.” A male dolphin at the Seaquarium, Lii (LEE-ee), is the father.
Because Shedd Aquarium is committed to providing the best animal care, both mother and calf will be off public view until this first critical period has ended. While most of the Abbott Oceanarium will remain open and accessible to the public, only the Secluded Bay area will be temporarily closed. More information will be available on Shedd’s website at www.sheddaquarium.org, along with updates on Shedd’s Facebook page and Twitter feed.