With their white color and prominent forehead, they're one of the most recognizable.
"We have eight Beluga Whales here at the Shedd. We are actually part of a North American Breeding Cooperative, which means every zoo and aquarium in North American that has Beluga Whales cooperates with breeding and caring for these animals so we can plan what's in the best interest of the whole populations," said Ken Ramirez, VP animal training at Shedd Aquarium.
There have been five successful calf births at the Shedd since 1999. The latest, a male, was born December 14th, 2009. He has yet to be named- but ABC7 is working on it! Enter for your chance to win a beluga experience!
"Labor can be a very difficult time for mothers and in many cases in the wild a large percentage of females lose their calf," said Ramirez. "He was born head first, which is backwards for a beluga whale, they're born tail first."
Since belugas are breathing mammals, a newborn calf needs to come up for air right away. In this most recent birth, the Shedd staff was able to intervene and successfully get the calf to the surface for its first breath of air.
One of the most important elements of the marine mammal program is to build a relationship with the animals through a series of training sessions. While the belugas see this as game time, the special skills allow vets to take care of them. For instance, a massage mimics an ultrasound exam and training allows the belugas to open their mouths so staff can check their teeth. Plus, the belugas seem to enjoy it.
Now that the newest beluga is 6 months old, what should the Shedd name its baby beluga?
"I think we should name him Charlie!" said Shedd visitor Kimberly Aranada. "I just like the name Charlie!"
"Junior because he's small and stays with his mom who watches him a lot!" said Alexander Espitia, Shedd visitor.
"I would name him Buddy!" said Jonathan Godinex. "It's a pretty cool name!"