PHOTOS: New beluga whale is sixth to be born at Shedd - New York News

PHOTOS: New beluga whale is sixth to be born at Shedd

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© Shedd Aquarium/Brenna Hernandez © Shedd Aquarium/Brenna Hernandez
CHICAGO (Sun-Times Media Wire) -

The sixth beluga whale to be born at the Shedd Aquarium remains under 24-hour observation after already reaching several health milestones in its first day of life.

Mauyak, the Shedd's female beluga, gave birth to a healthy calf about 2 a.m. Monday, a statement from the he aquarium said. The newborn is about 4 1/2 feet long and 150 pounds, mother and baby appear to be doing well.

So well that in its first 24 hours, the calf, whose gender is unknown, achieved the first of several critical milestones -- taking its first breath, bonding with its mother and attempting to nurse, aquarium spokesman Ken Ramirez said in the statement.

"A newborn calf must reach several milestones in its first days and months so we remain cautious; however, the calf has demonstrated incredible progress," he said. "Mauyak is an experienced mom having given birth to two calves in the past, so the labor was quick and went very smoothly."

Mother and calf will remain out of public view in the Secluded Bay habitat of the Abbott Oceanarium, and Shedd staff members will not physically interact with the whales, the statement said. They will be observed around the clock until the bonding process is complete. At that time, a physical exam of the calf will be completed to determine its gender.

Mauyak came to the Shedd in 1997 from Tacoma, Wash., as part of a beluga breeding cooperative. Shedd is one of seven North American institutions accredited to breed belugas, seven of which now live at the aquarium.

The new whale arrives just about three months after the birth of Shedd's first Pacific white-sided dolphin calf on Memorial Day. Mother Piquet and her male calf are now back on display in the Misty Passage exhibit of the oceanarium.

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