Dolphin born at Shedd Aquarium growing fast

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The Shedd Aquarium welcomed a Pacific white-sided dolphin into its family last June. He is six months old and ready for a name.

He's little, but boy is he growing fast. They say it takes a village to raise a human child - a dolphin is not much different.

PHOTOS: Dolphin calf born at Shedd Aquarium

There were a lot of sleepy-eyed employees at Shedd Aquarium in the months after the little guy was born.

"The first three months of his life we monitor every minute of every day," said Maris Muzzi, Marine Mammal Manager, Shedd Aquarium.

The six-month-old dolphin is one of only 20 living at aquariums in North America, so each milestone is important.

"We can learn things that there's no way you could learn about them in the wild. And we can apply that information to other types of whales that are not so common in the wild," said Dr. Bill Van Bonn, Vice President of Animal Health, Shedd Aquarium.

Muzzi supervises a team of professionals monitoring the dolphin calf's progress.

"We'll get eyes on him, making sure that he's healthy and made it through the night fine. Give them a first feed in the morning, around 7:40 or so. Have him come over and interact with his trainer," Muzzi said.

The baby dolphin can already recognize that a trainer holding a circle will be the one to work with him on any given day.

"You can see him, kind of, balancing and squirting water. He's trying to stay stationary and keep his mouth open so we can carefully place a piece of fish in his mouth," Muzzi said.

It's basically the dolphin equivalent of tummy time. Like most kids, the picky eater is motivated by food.

"These little tiny ones, he tends to eat a little more quickly. These larger ones, like the head and the tail, he'll take and play with for a little while," Muzzi said.

The baby dolphin eats fish six to seven times a day. Plus, he'll nurse from his mom, Piquet, for the first 1-2 years of his life.

But first, he needs a name. The Shedd launched a contest Wednesday to find the perfect name.

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