October 22, 2014
Today we are proud to share with you the exciting news that Maris, our 20-year-beluga whale, is expecting a calf in spring 2015! As with any pregnancy, preparations are being made to make the birthing process as comfortable as possible for Maris to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all of the animals.
Dr. Greg Bossart, V.M.D., Ph.D., Georgia Aquarium’s chief veterinary officer and senior vice president says: “Maris is in good health, and her calf appears to be developing normally. We are hopeful for a successful birth, especially since Maris demonstrated strong maternal behavior during her first pregnancy. Chances for a successful birth increase with every beluga whale pregnancy. As with all mammals – especially marine mammals – pregnancy is a delicate process not without risk, so we are guardedly optimistic.”
Leading up to Maris’ due date, Aquarium teams are preparing Maris and the beluga habitat for the delivery. Throughout Maris’ pregnancy, animal health experts are providing state-of-the-art prenatal care, including regular veterinary exams and frequent ultrasounds to monitor her health and the health of her calf. The beluga habitat will also receive some routine maintenance.
Maris successfully gave birth for her first calf in 2012; however, as is common among first-time births of marine mammals in the wild and in human care, the calf did not survive. The calf had multiple medical conditions, some of which appeared to be congenital.
We have also moved Beethoven, the 22-year-old male beluga whale, to Shedd Aquarium. Our experienced team is proud of our animal transport history and ensured that Beethoven received the highest level of care before, during and after the transport.
Both aquariums are among six accredited U.S. facilities that care for beluga whales and are dedicated to saving the species through conservation and research programs in their native habitats. We work together to accomplish this through non-invasive research with the animals in human care, participation in cooperative management and breeding programs, and education initiatives to inspire others to care about this amazing species. Belugas worldwide are listed as “Near Threatened” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. The species is also listed as “Endangered” in specific areas, including Cook Inlet, Alaska, and select areas of Canada.
Collaboration among accredited aquariums and zoos supports the overall health and well-being of the species. It enhances social groupings, allows for natural behaviors such as breeding, and fosters genetic diversity. Most of what is known about marine mammal reproduction and beluga calves has been learned by professionally caring for and studying animals in accredited zoological facilities. We all share what we learn to benefit animals globally.
As a leading organization in the zoological community, we are dedicated to protecting beluga whales worldwide. With fewer than 35 beluga whales in human care in North America, it is more important than ever that we all do our part in protecting this magnificent species – and we hope that you join us. We are proud to share this exciting news with you, our fans, and look forward to sharing updates with you as they develop via our blog, email and social media updates.
Want to do more to support our ongoing conservation efforts? Join the Caring Together Club today, a special community of animal advocates who understand and support the work that Georgia Aquarium and the zoological community are doing for animals everywhere.