Baby animals born daily at Shedd Aquarium for conservation through breeding programs

ByZach Ben-Amots WLS logo
Monday, July 12, 2021
An Ocean on the Lake: Animal Babies at Shedd Aquarium
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An Ocean on the Lake: Animal Babies at Shedd Aquarium

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Breeding efforts at Shedd Aquarium are a big part of the conservation work that staff and researchers engage in, and that means baby animals are born at Shedd every day.

According to senior aquarist Rachel Zak, who currently works with marine fish larvae, said that aquariums across the county are actually working together on breeding efforts and sharing their research with each other.

"(We are) more collaborative than competitive," Zak said.

Zak's work in particular requires several levels of cultivation. In order to breed the tiny organisms (like shrimp and plankton) that her newly hatched fish will eat, she first needs to cultivate the algae that those tiny organisms will eat. All of that work happens behind-the-scenes in the aquarium's live foods area.

Some of the animal breeding happens in plain sight, though, especially for Shedd's largest animals in the oceanarium.

Harmony, Shedd's youngest dolphin, was born nearly a year ago. And staff watched the entire birthing process from in and around the dolphins' environment.

"Her birth was incredible, I remember a lot about it," said animal care specialist Sheri Hendricks. "Thankfully, we did not have to do much as trainers. (Harmony's mother) Katrl is a really experienced, wonderful mom."

From dolphins to cuttlefish, fish larvae to sea-monkeys, the new animals born and cultured at Shedd everyday make for an ever-changing landscape at Chicago's world-famous aquarium.

"Animal Babies" is episode eight of 'An Ocean On The Lake,' the multi-part behind-the-scenes series from ABC 7 Chicago and Shedd Aquarium. This segment looks into the local conservation work that researchers and veterinarians do to revive native species and support entire ecosystems. Find every episode on our homepage for "An Ocean On The Lake," or watch on our ABC 7 Chicago connected TV App.