A male bottlenose dolphin was born at the Brookfield Zoo on December 12. He is 35-40lb and 3 ½ feet long. The mother of the calf is 9 year old Allison.
The calf is coming along well having passed a number of milestones including nursing and slipstreaming for the first time. Slipstreaming is when the calf rests alongside their mother while she is moving using a hydrodynamic wake that is created while she swims.
Rita Stacey, the curator of marine mammals for the Chicago Zoological Society said, “We are encouraged with the behaviour we are seeing from both Allison and the calf. However, we remain cautiously optimistic as the first 30 days are extremely critical in the calf’s life.”
Currently the calf is living with his mother in the Seven Seas main habitat at Brookfield Zoo. They live in a “grouping (which) mimics what occurs in the wild,” explained Stacey. In this group is 33 year old, Tapeko who has a 1 year old son Magic and his half-brother Merlin who is the same age.
Stacey added, “Dolphins are gregarious and form fluid social groupings throughout their lives. Mothers often form groups with other females who help in raising their young. Having successfully raised several calves of her own, including Merlin, Tapeko is a wonderful role model to Allison.”
Infancy is a delicate time for bottlenose dolphins as it is with other mammals. Until the calf turns one keepers will not believe that this has been a successful birth. Dr. Randy Wells who had led the Chicago Zoological Society’s (the group which run Brookfield Zoo) Sarasota Dolphin Research Program which has run for the past 45 years said this is when most dolphins are lost in the wild.
Keepers at the Brookfield Zoo have a relationship with their animals built on trust. This means the animals will voluntarily participate in health care work including physical exams to determine weight, take blood samples and other health assessments.
“The prenatal care Allison received during her pregnancy allowed the Society’s animal care and veterinary staff to monitor her health, as well as that of her developing calf,” said associate veterinarian for Brookfield Zoo, Jennifer Langan. “By monitoring fetal development through routine ultrasound exams, we were able to evaluate the growth rate, size, and sex of the calf and determine due dates to prepare for the impending birth.”
So that the group can bond the underwater viewing area has been closed along with dolphin care and enrichment chats being suspended.
There is also a dedicated website people can visit to discover more about the dolphin calf which is – www.czs.org/dolphincalf.
Photo Credit: Brookfield Zoo