Visitors to Shedd Aquarium have ooh-ed and ahh-ed over the baby
beluga born last December. Until now, though, they've had to do it
through glass, catching glimpses of the calf through the underwater
But this week, the aquarium took down a privacy wall that had
been constructed to give mom Puiji and her newborn time to bond.
Visitors can now get an unobstructed above-water view of all nine
of the belugas in Secluded Bay, the Pacific Northwest-themed lagoon
Jessica Whiton, a senior trainer at Shedd, says the adult whales
love the change, especially showboat Naya. Belugas are naturally
playful animals, and love interacting with the public -- from the
constant high-pitched calls to the occasional spit of water.
As for the calf?
"He doesn't really seem to notice," Whiton says. "His world
right now is beluga whales and his mom and eating and playing."
The calf, who is still awaiting a name, has been playing little
brother to Miki and Bella, the aquarium's 3- and 4-year-old whales,
and is growing more independent every day. He's also just plain
growing -- he is now 6 feet long and almost 400 pounds, he almost
twice his birth weight.
And though he still gets most of his food from his mom, Puiji,
he's starting to eat fish, sort of.
"He puts them in his mouth," Whiton says. "Actually eating them
is a different story" -- something every parent can relate to.
The beluga whales are part of the Shedd's Polar Play Zone, the
aquarium's first permanent children's exhibit. Kids can splash
around in a hands-on tidal pool, dress up like a penguin, take a
simulated yellow submarine ride, and get underwater views of sea
otters, penguins, dolphins, and seals. For hours and admission
information, click here.
See more of Liz's stories here.
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