Earlier this week, SeaWorld welcomed the newest addition to its beluga whale family.
The female calf was born at the San Antonio park after five hours of labor. Park veterinarians, animal care staff and trainers watched and waited, then shortly before 1 a.m. on June 20 the experienced mother, “Martha,” delivered a calf weighing approximately 120 pounds and measuring four feet in length. The calf’s sire, “Imaq,” resides at SeaWorld San Antonio on a breeding loan from the Vancouver Aquarium.
The birth is seen as a big success for not just SeaWorld, but also for all zoological facilities committed to caring for beluga whales.
“SeaWorld is deeply committed to the health and care of all of its animals, and the beluga birth today helps us ensure genetic diversity among all zoo-born beluga whales so that people will be able to connect with these animals for generations to come,” said Chris Bellows, SeaWorld San Antonio’s vice-president of zoological operations.
The new calf has been observed nursing from mom, which is one of the first signs of health and well-being in a newborn.
“The first days and even weeks in the life of a cetacean (dolphin or whale) are critical, but everything we’ve witnessed about this birth gives us great optimism that this animal will thrive,” Bellows added.
In the wild, first-year mortality rates among beluga whales run as high as 50%, according to studies by Canadian researchers in British Columbia.
“We will be monitoring nursing, respirations and other vital indicators which, thus far, have been positive,” Bellows said. “Round-the-clock monitoring enables us to record data that will better help us understand growth and maturation in beluga whales.”