The Shedd Aquarium in Chicago has a cuddly new member of the family: a 3-foot, 25-pound Pacific white-sided calf. The calf was born to Katrl, a 28-year-old dolphin, after three hours of labor. "As soon as those little tail flukes appear, your heart begins to race, and you know it's only a matter of time before you are about to witness something incredibly amazing," Lisa Takaki, senior director of marine mammals at the aquarium, said in a statement. "To watch a dolphin be born is beautiful, but to also see its natural instincts fully take over in a matter of seconds as it kicks its tail to propel its little body to the surface to take its first breath is overwhelmingly emotional."
The calf slipped out of Katrl and quickly began to swim for the surface to get a gulp of air. The calf then joined its mother for a few laps around the tank, receiving cheers and applause from the aquarium's staff. Takaki described Katrl as an "extremely attentive" mother, already helping the calf avoid the sides of the tank and teaching swimming positions that will conserve energy.
The calf — which will receive a name in about a year, according to CNN — and mother Katrl will be secluded from the public view for a period of time to encourage bonding.
Beyond the exhilaration of witnessing a live birth, this was also an educational moment. Dr. Bridget Coughlin, Shedd's new president and CEO, said, "Pacific white-sided dolphin births have never been seen in the wild, so it’s a unique opportunity for Shedd to deepen our scientific knowledge of this species."