A bottlenose dolphin calf died within moments of his birth Sunday morning at the Brookfield Zoo.
Tapeko, the zoo’s 29-year-old bottlenose dolphin and an experienced mother, gave birth to a male calf at 6:51 a.m. after three hours of labor, a release from the Brookfield Zoo said.
Two days ago, when Tapeko began showing signs that she was close to going into labor, marine mammal staff began 24-hour observations, according to the release. At 4 a.m., Tapeko started into full labor. Immediately after birth, the calf showed signs of weakness and little movement, according to the release.
“Normally a newborn calf would need very little assistance from its mother to swim to the surface to take its first breath,” Mike Adkesson, DVM, DACZM, associate veterinarian for the Chicago Zoological Society, which manages Brookfield Zoo, said. “However, Tapeko had to push her calf to the surface and he was unsuccessful in taking a breath.” Staff attempted to intervene, but the calf showed no sign of life.
“Our experienced marine mammal staff is just devastated as they share a close bond with the animals in their care. Our primary concern now is the well-being of Tapeko, who is being closely monitored,” Bill Zeigler, senior vice president of animal collection and care for the Society, said. “I am very proud of the staff and share in their grief at this terrible loss.”
The veterinary staff closely monitored Tapeko throughout her pregnancy, which progressed normally. As an experienced mother, Tapeko has raised three previous calves. A necropsy will be performed Sunday, although the cause of death may never be fully known, the release said.
Dolphin presentations have been canceled for Sunday, and the underwater viewing gallery will remain closed, as well.