The Shedd Aquarium in Chicago was witness to one of nature’s miracles Monday morning: a newborn dolphin surfaced. Guided by its mother, Katrl, the calf broke the water’s surface just a few minutes after birth.
Katrl, a Pacific white-sided dolphin, is a first-time mother at 29 years old. Aquarium officials have noted that she has proven to be naturally maternal, paying close attention to her calf. According to the Shedd Aquarium, Katrl’s labor lasted for more than 3 hours, as she circled the Secluded Bay during contractions between 6:02 and 9:14 CT. The baby came in at 3 feet long, weighing 25 pounds. As soon as it was born, the calf propelled itself upwards by kicking its tail, taking its first breath.
Lisa Takaki, the senior director of marine mammals said, “As soon as those little tail flukes appear, your heart begins to race, and you know it’s only a matter of time before you are about to witness something incredibly amazing.” She adds, “We couldn’t be more proud of the job Katrl is doing as a new mother, showing signs of protectiveness by steering her calf away from the sides of the habitat and helping to guide it into swimming position to conserve its energy reserves.”
Present at the birth were over 40 members of Shedd’s animal care and veterinary teams. This is the third successful dolphin birth for the aquarium. Piquet, another Pacific white-sided dolphin at Shedd, gave birth to Makoa in June 2015. Piquet also has a 3-year old calf, and both baby dolphins remain at the aquarium. Dr. Bridget Coughlin, Shedd’s president and CEO describes the event as “incredible,” adding that:
Pacific white-sided dolphin births have never been seen in the wild.
Katrl, meaning “to breathe air” in the Tlingit language, was mated with a male dolphin named Lii at the Miami Seaquarium in Florida under a breeding partnership. The calf’s gender is yet unknown, but both dolphins are under close monitoring and will remain under 24-hour supervision for the next few months.