The Shedd Aquarium welcomed a new member to its family just in time for America's birthday. A beluga whale calf was born at 7:23 p.m. July 3 to Mauyak, a 38-year-old beluga whale.
After a 33-minute-long labor, the calf swam to the surface, taking its first breath with the help of its mother. The calf, whose sex is yet to be determined, is estimated to be 150 pounds and about 5 feet long.
"After the successful delivery, we are supporting Mauyak and watching her do what she’s proven she does best – caring for her new calf," said Steve Aibel, senior director of marine mammals.
Beluga whales are arctic animals typically found in the polar waters of North America, Russia and Greenland. An adult beluga can grow up to 18-feet-long and weigh more than 3,000 pounds.
Observation of beluga reproduction is hard to come by in the wild, according to the Shedd. Watching Mauyak and her calf will inform researchers to help maintain the wild beluga population, especially in the St. Lawrence Seaway in Quebec where the Shedd has a partnership to study the endangered mammals.
"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," said Chief Animal Operations Officer Peggy Sloan in a statement. "Every pregnancy and birth brings significant information for both populations in accredited aquariums and their endangered counterparts in the wild."
Mauyak, which translates to "soft snow" in the language of the Inuit people in the Canadian Arctic, last gave birth in 2012 to Kimalu also at the Shedd. Both Mauyak and her newborn calf are healthy and are being held in the Abbott Oceanarium where they will be able to bond with each other and be cared for by Shedd’s animal care team.