30-lb. bottlenose dolphin is born at aquarium

March 26, 1992|By Bruce Reid | Bruce Reid,Staff Writer

A bottlenose dolphin was born today at the National Aquarium in Baltimore -- the second dolphin birth there this month.

Aquarium mammalogists said mother and calf seem to be doing just fine.

Hailey, the 380-pound, 8-foot-long mother, gave birth to a 30-pound baby at 6:30 a.m., said Nedra Hecker, senior mammalogist.

Shiloh, who like Hailey is 13 years old, gave birth to the aquarium's first dolphin calf March 7.

Mrs. Hecker, who was on hand today to witness the birth and the two hours and 50 minutes of labor preceding it, said officials had been worried about Hailey and her calf.

Late last year, an aquarium veterinarian found that Hailey, a first-time mother, was having liver problems.

"We almost lost her," Mrs. Hecker said. "We brought her back to health." She said officials still were worried that the mother would not be able to survive the birth.

So far, Mrs. Hecker said, all signs are good. The calf, now the seventh dolphin at the aquarium, nursed twice today within several hours after birth, she said.

She said seeing the birth of Shiloh's calf probably helped Hailey.

"She knew immediately when her calf was born what to do with it," Mrs. Hecker said.

Because of today's birth, aquarium officials decided to close the dolphin amphitheater to the public through Saturday. Mrs. Hecker said the amphitheater may be open for some "quiet visitation" on Sunday.

Because of the closing, aquarium officials are discounting each admission ticket by $2.

Vicki Aversa, an aquarium spokeswoman, said a closed-circuit video of the new mothers and their calves is being shown throughout the facility.

A video of the birth of Hailey's calf also is being shown.

Both calves probably were sired by Akai, the aquarium's dominant male dolphin, officials said.

Shiloh and her calf also are doing well. The two mothers and their calves are being kept in a 120,000 pool apart from the aquarium's dolphin exhibition pool.

The first days of a dolphin's life are critical, Mrs. Hecker said, and there are other benchmarks after that.

"You're really not out of the woods until the calf stops nursing," which is after 18 months, she said.

Neither calf has been named, because the sex of either has not been determined. It takes several weeks to be sure, Mrs. Hecker said.

She and her colleagues think Shiloh's calf, which now weighs more than 50 pounds and is about 4 feet long, is a female.

Mrs. Hecker said the calves probably will remain at the aquarium for at least several years. After that, they may have to be moved to another aquarium to prevent them from breeding with one of their parents, which would contaminate the gene pool of the Baltimore facility's group of dolphins.

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