Did you know? Fun facts about Shedd Aquarium's beluga whales

May 24, 2010 (CHICAGO) Some scuba divers who clean the Oceanarium at Shedd Aquarium's have even reported that the whales can mimic the raspy, breathing noises of Darth Vader!

The whales are found in the frigid waters of the Arctic Circle with other animals like dolphins, sea otters and sea lions. Beluga whales are deeply connected to the Inuit, the indigenous people of the Arctic who live off the land.

Born gray, beluga whales grow up to be white so they blend in with their natural surrounds. They can be up to 18 feet long and weigh more than 3,000 pounds.

The social animals travel in small groups of three to 10 whales and can twist their necks to find food. They dine on herring, octopus and squid- as much as 80 pounds of it a day!

It's important for newborn calves to bond with their mothers. In 1999, when Kayavak was orphaned at five months old, Shedd trainers took over, teaching her to eat fish and how to interact with other belugas. She was the first beluga born at the Shedd.

Since then, there have been four- including the December 14, 2009 birth- successful beluga births at Shedd Aquarium, which is one of nine North American zoos and aquariums that displays and breeds beluga whales.

There are seven beluga whales at the Shedd: Females:

  • Kayavak, who weighs 1,000 pounds, is 10 feet, 2 inches long, and was born 1999
  • Puiji, who weighs 1,500 pounds, is 10 feet, 8 inches long, and was born in 1986
  • Naya, who 1,800 pounds, is 10 feet, 5 inches long, and was born in 1989
  • Mauyak, who weighs 1,200 pounds , is 11 feet long, and was born in 1982
  • Bella, who weighs 800 pounds, is 8 feet, 6 inches long, and was born in 2006
  • Males:
  • Naluark, who weighs 2,200 pounds, is 13 feet long, and was born in 1986
  • Miki, who weighs 650 lbs, is 8 feet, 6 inches long, and was born in 2007

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