A 14-year-old beluga whale, Bella, gave birth to her first calf at the Shedd Aquarium on Friday night.
The Shedd Aquarium announced the mother and the baby whale are under close observation behind closed doors, as Bella is a first-time mother, making it more likely for the calf to die at birth.
“As the calf swam to the surface and took its first breath, it brought with it the palpable hope of new life and fresh beginnings -- something we all appreciate,” CEO and President of the Shedd Aquarium Dr. Bridget Coughlin said. “We at Shedd Aquarium continue to be humbled by the opportunity we have to share this excitement with the public and create meaningful moments of wonder and learning through the aquatic animal world.”
Bella delivered her calf after nearly 15 hours of labor, according to the Shedd. The aquarium said most beluga calves are born tail first, but Bella's male calf successfully arrived headfirst.
The Shedd Aquarium care team said they are in the water with the calf every three hours to assist in feeding, as he cannot yet independently nurse.
The calf weighs 139 pounds and is currently measured at 5 feet 3 inches in length, according to the Shedd.
“Beluga gestation is more than a year long, and we used this time for careful preparations and planning,” Peggy Sloan, chief animal operations officer at Shedd Aquarium, said. “Our animal care team is thrilled and grateful for this calf’s healthy and successful arrival. The birth is a testament to our commitment to belugas across the globe, as we are even better positioned to contribute to rescue efforts, policy-making and research meant to safeguard belugas in need.”