“What Name Did the Public Choose for the Shedd Aquarium’s Baby Beluga Whale?” by S.M. O’Connor

Late last month, the John G. Shedd Aquarium let the public vote on the name of the beluga whale (Delphinapterus leucas) calf born on Wednesday, July 3, 2019 in Pod Poll 2019.  Voting ended on the evening of Thursday, November 21, 2019, after almost 20,000 votes had been cast.  The calf and his mother, Mauyuk (pronounced My-yack), remain under the eye of trainers and medical staff.  He is growing steadily.  The Shedd Aquarium announced on Friday, November 22, 2019 that the public voted for the name Annik (pronounced AH-nik), which means “blizzard.”  This is an appropriate name because, as the Shedd Aquarium staff noted, Mauyak “means ‘soft snow’ in the Inuit language. 

“We haven’t named a beluga calf at Shedd in seven years, so this was a special moment for guests but also for our staff and the beluga care team,” stated Maris Muzzy, Manager of Whales and Dolphins at the Shedd Aquarium.  “We couldn’t be happier with the name our guests decided on.  While Mauyak’s name represents her calm, graceful demeanor, so does Annik describe this calf’s fierce spirit and rambunctious enegergy.”

In a press release, the Shedd Aquarium stated, “The week-long vote kicked off at Shedd’s Asleep with the Fishes overnight [event] on Nov. 15 – to the surprise and delight of the families who attended.  Frome there, Shedd allowed the public to vote as many times as they liked both online and on-site.  Voting stations in the aquarium included beluga-focused trivia and activities to help guests learn more about the arctic animals.  This allowed voters to walk away knowing more about belugas and building an affinity for aquatic life.”

      Annik was about five feet long and weighed approximately 150 pounds at the time of his birth.  In four months, he more than doubled his weight and grew over a foot longer so he is now over six feet long and weighs over 330 pounds.

      Mauyuk was thirty-eight years old when she gave birth to Annik.  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 Annik 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 Annik on July 4, 2019, the day after he was born.

Figure 3 Credit: Brenna Hernandez, ©Shedd Aquarium Caption: Annik 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 four months since he was born and Brenna Hernandez took these pictures, Annik doubled his weight and grew a foot longer so he is now over six feet long and weighs more than 330 pounds.

Figure 5 Credit: Brenna Hernandez, ©Shedd Aquarium Caption: The name the public voted in favor of was Annik (pronounced AH-nik), which means “blizzard.”  The others possible choices were 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: Annik 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, Annik can save energy.

Figure 8 Credit: Brenna Hernandez, ©Shedd Aquarium Caption: Ms. Hernandez took this picture of Annik and his mother, Mauyak, on or before August 8th.

Figure 9 Credit: Brenna Hernandez, ©Shedd Aquarium Caption: Ms. Hernandez took this picture on or before August 8th. At the time, Annik was about a month old, and had yet to be named.
Figure 10 Credit: Brenna Hernandez, ©Shedd Aquarium Caption: Ms. Hernandez took this picture on or before August 8th.

Figure 11 Credit: Brenna Hernandez, ©Shedd Aquarium Caption: Ms. Hernandez took this picture on or before August 8th.

Figure 12 Credit: Brenna Hernandez, ©Shedd Aquarium Caption: Ms. Hernandez took this picture on or before November 20th.

Figure 13 Credit: Brenna Hernandez, ©Shedd Aquarium Caption: Ms. Hernandez took this picture on or before November 20th.

Figure 14 Credit: Brenna Hernandez, ©Shedd Aquarium Caption: Ms. Hernandez took this picture on or before November 20th.

Figure 15 Credit: Brenna Hernandez, ©Shedd Aquarium Caption: Ms. Hernandez took this picture on or before November 20th. Around the time she took this picture, Annik was over six feet long and more than 330 pounds.
Figure 16 Credit: Brenna Hernandez, ©Shedd Aquarium Caption: Voting on the name of the beluga calf began on-site during the Shedd Aquarium’s “Asleep with the Fishes” overnight event on Friday, November 15, 2019.

Figure 17 Credit: Brenna Hernandez, ©Shedd Aquarium Caption: Voting on the name of the beluga calf began on-site during the Shedd Aquarium’s “Asleep with the Fishes” overnight event on Friday, November 15, 2019.

Figure 18 Credit: Brenna Hernandez, ©Shedd Aquarium Caption: Visitors who voted on the name of the beluga calf on-site at the Shedd Aquarium received this sticker similar to the “I Voted” stickers citizens receive at the polls.

Figure 19 Credit: Brenna Hernandez, ©Shedd Aquarium Caption: Voting on the name of the beluga calf began on-site during the Shedd Aquarium’s “Asleep with the Fishes” overnight event on Friday, November 15, 2019.

Figure 20 Credit: Brenna Hernandez, ©Shedd Aquarium Caption: This picture is from the name revelation ceremony in the Abbott Oceanarium on November 22, 2019. To previous generations, this image imprinted on the card would be recognizable as representing an envelope, but around the turn of the century, increasingly more people would recognize it as an “icon” representing e-mail.

Figure 21 Credit: Brenna Hernandez, ©Shedd Aquarium Caption: This picture is from the name revelation ceremony in the Abbott Oceanarium on November 22, 2019. At this point, the audience is being teased.
Figure 22 Credit: Brenna Hernandez, ©Shedd Aquarium Caption: This picture is from the name revelation ceremony in the Abbott Oceanarium on November 22, 2019. Here’s the heroic revelation of Annik’s name.

Figure 23 Credit: Brenna Hernandez, ©Shedd Aquarium Caption: This picture is from the name revelation ceremony in the Abbott Oceanarium on November 22, 2019.

      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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