“Shedd Aquarium Asks Public to Vote on Baby Beluga’s Name,” by S.M. O’Connor

The John G. Shedd Aquarium is letting the public vote on the name of the beluga whale (Delphinapterus leucas) calf born on Wednesday, July 3, 2019.  Voting ends on the evening of Thursday, November 21, 2019 and the winning name will be announced on Friday, November 22, 2019.  The calf and his mother, Mauyuk (pronounced My-yack), remain under the eye of trainers and medical staff.  He is growing steadily. 

Possible Names

Annik (pronounced AH-nik) means “blizzard.”  The Shedd Aquarium staff noted that Mauyak “means ‘soft snow’ in the Inuit language.  This little calf arrived strong and active—a little blizzard around his graceful and patient mother.

Imavik (pronounced Ee-mah-vik) means “ocean.”  The Shedd Aquarium staff stated, “This name helps remind us how important it is to protect and nurture our ocean environment to ensure we continue to provide a safe and healthy ecosystem for beluga whales.”

Ikulk (pronounced Ee-koo-lak) means “confident.”  The Shedd Aquarium staff stated, “The calf is strong and confident, peeling away whenever possible to explore his habitat or investigate something new under the watchful gaze of his mom.”

Naniitchuk (pronounced nah-nee-Eet-chuck) means ‘brave.”  The Shedd Aquarium staff stated, “This little calf is brave and persistent.  He is fearless when participating in new experiences, meeting new animals and playing with new toys.”

Kulu (pronounced KOO-loo) is a term of endearment for babies and wee tots.  Participants on the Shedd Adventures trip to see beluga whales in the wild in Canadian waters chose this name.

Click here to vote.  The calf was about five feet long and weighed approximately 150 pounds at the time of his birth.  In three months, he doubled his weight and grew a foot longer so he is now six feet long and weighs 300 pounds.

Mauyuk was thirty-eight years old when she gave birth to this calf.  The last time she gave birth was on August 27, 2012, which had been the most recent birth at the Shedd Aquarium until now. 

That calf was Kimalu.  At ten feet and two inches long, she would be the smallest beluga whale at the Shedd Aquarium if not for her younger sibling.

“This is a humbling and fulfilling moment for our animal care teams, who have been preparing Mauyak for her big delivery for more than a year,” Peggy Sloan, Chief Animal Operations Officer at the Shedd Aquarium, stated in a press release on July 4, 2019, the day after the calf’s birth.  “Every pregnancy and birth brings significant information for both populations in accredited aquariums and their endangered counterparts in the wild.”

“After the successful delivery, we are supporting Mauyak and watching her for what she’s proven she does best – caring for her new calf,” stated Steve Aibel, Senior Director of Maine Mammals at the Shedd Aquarium.  “Mauyak now begins the process of bonding and nursing with her new calf.  During this time, we will be watching closely 24-7 and gathering data on important beluga calf developmental milestones to share with the scientific community at large.”

The Shedd Aquarium stated, “Reproduction and births are rarely observed in the wild, and data that Shedd Aquarium collects from watching Mauyak and her calf’s development help inform researchers and wildlife management organizations dedicated to safeguarding wild beluga populations.  For example, understanding critical neonatal development and birthing milestones can help Shedd’s partners in Canada know if pollution, shipping or human activity could be detrimental to the reproduction and recovery of the critically endangered beluga population in the St. Lawrence Seaway.”

Figure 1 Credit: Brenna Hernandez, ©Shedd Aquarium Caption: This is Mauyak and her male calf born on July 3, 2019.  He is her fourth calf born at the Shedd Aquarium.

Figure 2 Credit: Brenna Hernandez, ©Shedd Aquarium Caption: The Shedd Aquarium released these pictures of Mauyak and her male calf on July 4, 2019, the day after he was born.

Figure 3 Credit: Brenna Hernandez, ©Shedd Aquarium Caption: The calf was about five feet long and weighed approximately 150 pounds at the time of his birth.

Figure 4 Credit: Brenna Hernandez, ©Shedd Aquarium Caption: In the three months since he was born and Brenna Hernandez took these pictures, the calf doubled his weight and grew a foot longer so he is now six feet long and weighs 300 pounds.

Figure 5 Credit: Brenna Hernandez, ©Shedd Aquarium Caption: One of the names the public can vote on is Annik (pronounced AH-nik), which means “blizzard.”  The others are Imavik (pronounced Ee-mah-vik), which means “ocean;” Ikulk (pronounced Ee-koo-lak), which means “confident;” Naniitchuk (pronounced nah-nee-Eet-chuck), which means ‘brave;” and Kulu (pronounced KOO-loo) is a term of endearment for babies and tots.

 

Figure 6 Credit: Brenna Hernandez, ©Shedd Aquarium Caption: The calf sometimes hitches a ride on his mother, Mauyak, or his elder sister, Kimalu.

Figure 7 Credit: Brenna Hernandez, ©Shedd Aquarium Caption: By hitching a ride on his mother or his big sister, the calf can save energy.
Credit: Sam Cejtin, ©Shedd Aquarium Credit: Here, we see Mauyak with her male calf born on Wednesday, July 3, 2019.

There is a twelve-page article on what animals there eat in the November, 2019 issue of CHICAGO MAGAZINE. The last Illinois Free Day at the Shedd Aquarium is Wednesday, December 4, 2019.  The Ford Motor Company Fund sponsors Illinois Free Days at the Shedd Aquarium.  There is a $3-per-transaction fee to reserve these free tickets in advance online.  Admission to a 4-D Experience is a $4.95 upgrade for each guest.

The Shedd Aquarium is a Smithsonian Affiliate.  It is located on the Museum Campus in the Chicago Park District’s Burnham Park.  Normally, the Shedd Aquarium is open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. during the workweek (Mondays through Fridays) and from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. on weekends (Saturdays and Sundays).    Click here for updates on hours.  The last ticket sale is forty-five minutes before closing.

The address is 1200 South Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, Illinois 60605.  The Website is https://www.sheddaquarium.org.  The phone number is (312) 939-2438.

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