Explore by Animal

Beluga Calf Update - 9/12

You've read the weekly updates and clicked on the slide show. Now you can see Puiji's calf in person!

Puiji and her calf on Sept. 8

The little beluga made his debut to enthusiastic crowds when the Secluded Bay portion of the Oceanarium's underwater viewing gallery reopened on Sunday, Sept. 10, a day short of his turning 8 weeks old. While Puiji and companion whale Naya are old hands at weekend throngs of guests, the increased activity was new to the calf. But he wasn't distracted from such important business as nursing and playing by his adoring fans, who could also get a glimpse of him from a section of the coastal walkway as he fairly leaped out of the water when he surfaced to breathe.

But the best views are from underwater. If the gate between pools is open, you'll see the calf readily follow Mom in and out of the medical pool on the left side of Secluded Bay. You'll remember from a previous update that, for a long time, the channel to the other pool was just too dark and scary for the little whale to enter. But with coaxing from Mom and Naya, and his own increasing confidence, the calf finally discovered that it's a fun place to go. This was the milestone in the calf's development that Ken Ramirez, our v.p. of animal collections and training, was waiting for before opening Secluded Bay again. The medical pool offers the pair a private environment if they want it.

If you visit with the calf for 30 minutes (and he's so much fun to watch that it's easy to do), you have a good chance of seeing him nurse. The big surprise is that he might nurse from Naya instead of Mom! When mature female whales are around a calf for long periods, they often start to produce milk, and they'll help the mother nourish the calf. In addition to giving Puiji a rest, Naya is gaining great practice in the tricky process of nursing no-hands while swimming. We all agree that Naya will make a great mother some day. (Just so you can tell the females apart, Puiji is smaller but a bit heftier than Naya.)
Look for playthings in the pool, too. The calf recently marked another major milestone when he discovered the joy of playing with toys. He accidentally brushed his back against an inner tube that Puiji and Naya were playing with, and he had a visible "aha" moment. He seemed to suddenly understand why Mom and Naya spend so much time with the strange objects that are placed in the pool each day, and he joined in the fun of rubbing against and bumping into the tube.

The calf's first year is an amazing nonstop learning period. He's growing like a weed, too, and has already put on about 50 pounds since birth. So visit often. For at least another month, we will have the area closest to the viewing windows and walkway railing cordoned off to provide room for our observers to collect minute-by-minute data on the calf. Please don't interrupt the observer, but feel free to ask questions of the education staffer stationed in the underwater viewing gallery. And don't miss the video of the calf's birth.

The calf's next big milestone might be getting a name! While this is the last of the weekly updates, watch this space for news of a naming contest around Oct. 1.


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