Staff and volunteers at the National Aquarium in Baltimore are excited about a tiny addition to the dolphin colony: At approximately 7 a.m. on Sunday, July 27 Chesapeake, a 16 year old Atlantic bottlenose dolphin, gave birth to a female calf. At birth the calf was approximately 30 lbs and 2-3 feet long. Chesapeake is the daughter of Shiloh. This is Chesapeake’s third calf born at the National Aquarium.
The calf appears to be in robust health, and the trainers are cautiously optimistic about her progress. Even with a successful birth and experienced motherly care, some 33% of calves do not survive their first year of life in either ocean or Aquarium settings. Dolphin calves are especially fragile and not easily handled during their first two to three months of life, so trainers leave raising the calf solely to the dolphin mom. In this case, however, Chesapeake is lucky enough to have two other female dolphins in the nursing pool who can assist her with motherly duties. Shiloh and Jade have both spent time with the calf. Shiloh has even helped to nurse her.
The new calf joins another youngster in the nursery pool. Foster is the youngest of the dolphin colony and will turn one year old in September. He appears curious about the new arrival, but is staying out of the way of the mom and calf for now. Foster is spending a lot of time playing with toys, learning from the trainers and bonding with his mother, Jade.
To allow ample time for the calf and mother to bond, and for the calf to become familiar with her surroundings, access to the nursery pool will be restricted to the animal care staff for the next few months. Visitors were invited into the amphitheater to enjoy quiet dolphin shows on Wednesday, and may catch a glimpse of the baby as she surfaces with her mother for a breath of air.
Over the next few months trainers and volunteers will monitor the progress of the calf through round the clock observations. The calf will live on its mother’s milk for the first three months of life; trainers will begin to offer the calf fish at about 3 months of age. As the calf develops the Aquarium will determine plans to name her.
The National Aquarium in Baltimore, a non-profit organization, is Maryland’s most exciting and popular cultural attraction, as well as one of the region’s leading conservation and education resources, hosting more than 1.6 million visitors per year. Through transforming experiences, the National Aquarium inspires people to enjoy, respect, and protect the aquatic world. It is dedicated to education and conservation through more than a dozen programs that serve the environment and the community.