CHICAGO, Ill. (WCIA) — On World Environment Day, June 5, Shedd Aquarium is announcing notable pregnancies and births at its facility to emphasize its commitment to protecting aquatic animals around the globe.
Several animals were born after the aquarium closed March 13 in response to the global COVID-19 pandemic. Some of the significant births include those of penguin chicks, caiman lizards, bonnethead shark pups and more. Aquarium leaders also have details on three eventful pregnancies: Those of two beluga whales and a Pacific white-sided dolphin.
Shedd encourages the public to join collective action efforts with a call to protect aquatic habitat thousands of species, from seahorses to sharks to whales to dolphins and more, call home.
By supporting the Global Deal for Nature, you can add your voice to a growing chorus of nature advocates pressuring elected officials to mandate the protection of 30 percent of the world’s natural habitats (terrestrial, freshwater and marine) by 2030. Anyone can read through and support the “30 by 30” effort to urge local elected officials to sign onto the Global Deal for Nature.
Annik, the healthy and energetic beluga calf born at Shedd in 2019, is nearing his first birthday July 3. Meanwhile, two belugas are expected to deliver calves this summer.
Bella, a 13-year old, and Naya, a 31-year old, are due just a month apart.
As with any cetacean birth, staff remain cautiously optimistic and laser-focused on the health of the mothers and developing calves. Caring for beluga mothers and calves has provided the aquarium with skills to lead and participate in several wild beluga rescue operations while giving the facility the expertise to advise on conservation management policies which safeguard wild beluga populations.
Pacific White-Sided Dolphin
Katrl, a 33-year old Pacific white-sided dolphin is also expecting a calf later this fall. Shedd has not welcomed a dolphin calf since 2016 and eagerly anticipated sharing the journey with the public.
Katrl is being checked regularly with sonograms marking her calf’s development. Shedd is one of the few places where a Pacific white-sided dolphin birth has been observed, giving scientists and the public a chance to connect with and understand the rarely-studied species of dolphin.
The penguin colony is in the thick of its nesting and breeding season. The colony welcomed four healthy Magellanic penguin chicks which are being raised in their nests. Shedd’s animal care team continues to monitor the parents to make sure they’re caring for the chicks appropriately.
Two caiman lizards, semi-aquatic animals native to South America, hatched in April. Shedd was the first aquarium in North America to successfully breed the species in 2005.
The young lizards are part of a Species Survival Plan (SSP) within the Association of Zoos and Aquarium (AZA) which provides science-driven breeding recommendations to ensure healthy, genetically-diverse animal populations for generations.
Six cownose stingray pups have arrived at Shedd since February. The young rays are born fully formed, ready to swim and explore. Cownose Rays are one of many types at Shedd which hoses both freshwater and marine species.
Six bonnethead shark pups arrived just as Shedd was forced to close to the public. They were born live in a nursery behind the scenes where animal care teams watched over and provided regular veterinary check-ups. Bonnethead sharks populate the popular Caribbean Reef exhibit.
Four different species of seahorses were born in large numbers between March and May. They include longsnout, yell, Barbour’s and White’s.
Seahorses are unique because the males carry fertilized embryos until the babies are ready to be born. Without parental care, the fully-formed seahorse babies are on their own after birth.
Recently, Shedd joined a head-start program to help the endangered species of fish devastated by the introduction of invasive species.
Supporting partners at Tennessee Aquarium, Shedd will spawn and raise topminnows in the safety of the aquarium and return them to Tennessee after a year, once they are mature and can help bolster wild populations. Shedd has already seen incredible success with more than 30 hatched so far and potentially more to come.
The John G. Shedd Aquarium fosters compassion, curiosity and conservation for the aquatic animal world. Home to 32,000 aquatic animals representing 1,500 species of fishes, reptiles, amphibians, invertebrates, birds and mammals from waters around the globe, Shedd is a recognized leader in animal care, conservation education and research. An accredited member of AZA, the organization is an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution and supported by the people of Chicago, the State of Illinois and the Chicago Park District.
Photo credit: ©Shedd Aquarium/Brenna Hernandez
Video credit: ©Shedd Aquarium/Sam Cejtin