Shedd's baby beluga celebrates 1st birthday

December 14, 2010 (CHICAGO)

Baby blubber boy is the spittin' image of a healthy one-year-old whale.

"Very big day," said Lisa Takaki, director of marine mammals at the Shedd. "One year milestone for Nunavik, first birthday."

To celebrate the milestone, Nunavik was part of the Shedd Aquarium's Holiday Fantasea show. It's an extravaganza featuring many of the Oceanarium's sea creatures and it runs until Jan. 2.

But the star of Monday's show was Nunavik, who had to ask his mom, Puiji, to help splash out his candle.

Nunavik's birthday is a big deal because only 50 percent of belugas survive the first year. And then Nunavik had a very difficult birth.

"It's an amazing birth. You see him coming, being born head first ,and one of the trainers helping him to the surface to get his first breath. So it was a scary start but he's been great," Takaki said.

If he had been born in the wilds of the Arctic Ocean, his chances of survival would have been very slim. But here he is thriving on lots of mother's milk, and now, a few fish.

"He was born at about a hundred and fifty pounds. Now he's over 400 pounds," Takaki said.

And that's just the beginning Some day Nunavik will be about 3,000 pounds and up to 14 feet long.

"He'll be sexually mature probably in six or seven years," Takaki said.

Nunavik is just beginning his journey but he has already caused a big splash.

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