At approximately 2:00 AM yesterday morning, August 27, Chicago's Shedd Aquarium welcomed a healthy Beluga calf to mother Mauyak. Shedd’s animal care team estimates that the calf is 4½ feet long and weighs about 150 pounds. Both mother and calf appear to be doing well and will remain under 24-hour observation by the animal health staff in Shedd’s Abbott Oceanarium.
“We are thrilled to welcome the newest member of the Shedd Aquarium family. A newborn calf must reach several milestones in its first days and months so we remain cautious; however, the calf has demonstrated incredible progress,” said Ken Ramirez, executive vice president of animal care and training at Shedd. “Mauyak is an experienced mom having given birth to two calves in the past, so the labor was quick and went very smoothly.”
“In less than 24 hours after birth, the calf achieved the first critical milestones that we look for, including taking its first breath, bonding with mom and we’ve seen attempts at nursing,” continued Ramirez, who has nearly four decades of marine mammal expertise, including serving as the past president of the International Marine Animal Trainer’s Association (IMATA). “Shedd’s long history of research and care of these animals tells us that these initial behaviors indicate a strong calf; but we will continue to monitor for signs of development, including steady nursing and growth.”
Animal care is Shedd’s top priority, so mother and calf are currently off exhibit in the Secluded Bay habitat of the Abbott Oceanarium. During the first few critical days following a birth, Shedd’s animal care experts do not physically interact with the whales. Instead, the team observes day and night, allowing time for the mother to nurture her newborn and build a strong bond. As a result, the marine mammal staff has not determined the calf’s gender through a physical examination.
Watch the baby breath, swim and frolic in its first few hours of life!Video credits: ©Shedd Aquarium
More photos and information below the fold!