May 11, 2015
Today, we are elated to announce Georgia Aquarium’s beluga whale Maris has successfully given birth to a little girl! The calf arrived at 1:25 a.m. on Mother’s Day, Sunday, May 10, after hours of labor. Needless to say, we couldn’t be happier, as Mother’s Day took on a new and special significance here at Georgia Aquarium!
Just seconds after its birth, the calf instinctively swam to the surface and took its first breath, a critical milestone anxiously awaited by all. She is under 24-hour professional care as Aquarium experts constantly monitor mother and daughter for bonding and nursing.
As with all mammals, especially marine mammals, pregnancy and giving birth is a delicate process. Through months of pre-birth preparations including routine health checks, fetal monitoring via ultrasound and intensive staff training, Maris and the team were well prepared for a smooth labor and delivery.
Since mid-March, Georgia Aquarium’s passionate and dedicated animal care and veterinary teams have observed the expectant mother 24-hours per day to collect pregnancy information and to monitor Maris’s health and wellbeing during this very exciting time. Staff at the Aquarium have shared in some of Maris’ biggest moments, from her pregnancy to the special moment when she became a mother on Mother’s Day.
“Since the moment of birth, our animal care and veterinary teams have been giving around-the-clock care to Maris and her calf, taking every measure possible to ensure that the calf thrives,” said Dr. Gregory Bossart, senior vice president & chief veterinary officer. “Our team was able to give mom and calf physical exams. The calf weighs approximately 126.5 pounds and is 59 inches in length. Thus far, we are very encouraged by what we are seeing from both mom and calf.”
While there are many milestones within the first year that this baby beluga girl must surpass to ensure its survival, the team is hopeful for a successful outcome. Eric Gaglione, director of zoological operations, mammals and birds, at Georgia Aquarium, states that these milestones allow us to gauge the calf's progress and consist of:
“Our experienced team is providing the best care available to both calf and mom and will continue to provide 24-hour care as long as is required. Animal care is the top priority at Georgia Aquarium, and our team continues to fulfill our commitment to do whatever it takes to provide the finest care for our animals,” said Gaglione.
Georgia Aquarium is one of seven accredited North American aquariums and zoos committed to educational public display and conservation of beluga whales, and will continue to share the vital knowledge gained through this pregnancy and birth with the marine mammal community. Because of the extraordinary, long-term care beluga whales receive at accredited zoological organizations like Georgia Aquarium, this birth is significant as it is the first viable calf to be born from parents who were born in human care. Maris was born at the New York Aquarium in 1994, and the father, Beethoven, was born at SeaWorld San Antonio in 1992.
Last October, we announced Maris’ pregnancy to our fans and we are excited to finally share this long anticipated moment with you! Our animal care and team members are also just as excited to show the calf off to our guests, fans and followers when the beluga habitat eventually reopens. However, in order to allow our staff to focus completely on the comfort and well-being of Maris and her daughter, the beluga exhibit will be temporarily closed until further notice.
Check out the rest of the photos here:
We will announce the reopening of our beluga whale habitat to our fans on social media. Continue to check back here on our blog, Facebook and Twitter for updates and help us welcome Maris and her new baby girl! To be among the first to receive announcements about the calf and other information from the Georgia Aquarium, sign up for e-newsletters at www.georgiaaquarium.org.