A holiday gift arrived early at the Brookfield Zoo in the form of a baby dolphin.
The male bottlenose dolphin calf was born around 1:15 p.m. on Friday to first-time mom Allison, who is 9 years old. It weighed a whopping 35 to 40 pounds at birth and was about 3.5 feet long.
Staff members at the zoo are pleased with the progress the calf is making, but they say they are only "cautiously optimistic" because the first 30 days are the most critical to the calf's survival.
Following the birth, zoo staff witnessed the calf nursing and "slipstreaming," which means he was resting next to his mother while she was moving. Both are encouraging signs of the calf's good health.
Mom Allison and the dolphin calf currently reside in the Seven Seas habitat at the Brookfield Zoo with three other dolphins: Tapeko, Magic and Merlin.
"The current group mimics what occurs in the wild," said Rita Stacey, the curator of marine mammals for the Chicago Zoological Society, which manages the Brookfield Zoo. "Dolphins are gregarious and form fluid social groupings throughout their lives. Mothers often form groups with other females who help in raising their young. Having successfully raised several calves of her own, including Merlin, Tapeko is a wonderful role model to Allison."
The exhibit's underwater viewing area will remain closed until further notice to give Allison and her calf time to bond. For updates, visit www.czs.org/dolphincalf.