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Beluga Calf Update - 12/7

And the winning name is Bella! Through ABC’s “Good Morning America” show, people across the country decided in a landslide vote that Bella was the perfect name for Shedd’s little female beluga. The calf was born July 17 to Puiji, one of Shedd’s first belugas.

Bella, reaching over Mom's back, gets a tongue tickle from a trainer.

The GMA Web site tallied more than 8,000 votes during almost a week of on-line voting for either Bella, Anana, or Nalupu. The three names were the semifinalists from a previous round of voting for Inuit names provided by Shedd as well as names submitted by GMA viewers. Voters had a chance to pore over photos and videos of the calf and read the weekly accounts of her first three months posted on this Web site to help them pick the perfect name. Bella, which means "beautiful," seemed to fit the face.  “Bella definitely conveys the lively and good-spirited nature of the calf’s continually emerging personality,” says Ken Ramirez, Shedd's v.p. of animal collections and training. “The public’s connection to our playful calf through naming her makes this that much more special.”

Bella just had her second physical exam on Nov. 30. An estimated 125 pounds at birth, the robust calf now weighs nearly 300 pounds and has grown almost a foot, to a length of not quite 6 feet — definitely bigger than any of her trainers!

By her first birthday, Bella should tip the whale scale at 500 pounds or more.

Mom Puiji, who is 20, is also in good health. Puiji is an attentive mom, and she's the role model whom the calf mimics to learn new behaviors. Bella is often by Puiji’s side during Mom’s training sessions, soaking up everything she sees — and getting a pat on the head or tickle on the tongue from a trainer besides.

While the calf will continue to nurse for at least another year, her newest playthings are fish from Mom's food bucket. As she mouths a mackerel, once in awhile one will slip down her throat. In fact, the calf had her first taste of solid food this week.

Bella is also learning games — and beluga etiquette — from 17-year-old Naya and 7-year-old Kayavak, two other females in Shedd’s beluga group. Like Bella, Kayavak was born at the aquarium.

Bella is growing like crazy and getting cuter every day. But don’t take our word for it — visit often and see for yourself!


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