Shedd Aquarium has announced a new kid on the block as resident beluga whale Mauyak gave birth to a calf this week.
The 38-year-old whale gave birth to a healthy calf on July 3, with the whole process from the emergence of the baby’s flukes to complete delivery taking just 33 minutes.
The aquarium has said both mother and calf are progressing well and will remain under 24-hour observation by its animal care team for several months.
The calf swam to the surface and took its first breath shortly after birth assisted by its mother.
Its sex is yet to be determined by the team.
Animal care estimates the calf is approximately 5 feet in length and weighs approximately 150 pounds.
Chief animal operations officer at Shedd, Penny Sloan said in a statement: “This is a humbling and fulfilling moment for our animal care teams, who have been preparing Mauyak for her big delivery for more than a year.
“Every pregnancy and birth brings significant information for both populations in accredited aquariums and their endangered counterparts in the wild.”
Mauyak, name meaning ‘soft snow’, is an experienced mother whose last calf, Kimalu, was born in 2012.
Her new calf is now the first beluga calf at the aquarium in seven years.
Senior director of marine mammals at Shedd Steve Aibel said: “Mauyak now begins the process of bonding and nursing with her new calf.
“During this time, we will be watching closely 24-7 and gathering data on important beluga calf developmental milestones to share with the scientific community at large.”
As reproduction and births are rarely tracked and assessed in the wild, Shedd will be collecting new data and information on beluga development by watching Mauyak and her calf.
This will help to inform researchers and wildlife management organizations dedicated to safeguarding wild beluga populations.
Last year the team joined experts in Alaska to provide help to a stranded beluga calf that was part of a critically endangered subpopulation.
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The vital research could help Shedd’s partners in Canada to find out if shipping, pollution, or human activity could badly affect the reproduction and recovery of the critically endangered beluga population in the St. Lawrence Seaway.
The care process will also help the team to learn more about the species to help rescue, rehabilitation and release efforts to run smoother in the future.
Both mother and calf will be in the Abbott Oceanarium and programming will be moved around to allow for bonding time between mom and calf.
The new program will include interpretive chats and progress updates on Mauyak and her new calf.
Visitors will still be able to view Shedd’s sea otters, sea lions, penguins, dolphins and beluga whales as normal.
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