“Maris is in good health, and her calf appears to be developing normally,” said Dr. Gregory Bossart, V.M.D., Ph.D., chief veterinary officer and senior vice president at Georgia Aquarium. “We are hopeful for a successful birth, especially since Maris demonstrated strong maternal instincts during her first pregnancy. Chances for a successful birth increase with every beluga whale pregnancy. As with all mammals – especially marine mammals – pregnancy is a delicate process not without risk, so we are guardedly optimistic.”
Leading up to Maris’ due date, Aquarium teams are preparing Maris and the beluga habitat for the delivery. Throughout Maris’ pregnancy, animal health experts are providing state-of-the-art prenatal care, including regular veterinary exams and frequent ultrasounds to monitor her health and the health of her calf. The beluga habitat will also receive some routine maintenance.
Maris successfully gave birth to her first calf in 2012; however, as is common among first-time births of marine mammals in the wild and in human care, the calf did not survive. The calf had multiple medical conditions, some of which appeared to be congenital.
Updates on Maris’ pregnancy will be shared with the public on Georgia Aquarium’s blog and social media channels.
In other beluga whale news, Beethoven, a 22-year-old male beluga, moved recently from Georgia Aquarium to Shedd Aquarium. Both aquariums are among six accredited U.S. facilities that care for beluga whales and that are dedicated to saving the species through conservation and research programs in their native habitats. The institutions accomplish this through non-invasive research with the animals in human care, participation in cooperative management and breeding programs, and educational initiatives to inspire others to care about these animals.
Collaboration among accredited aquariums and zoos supports the overall health and well-being of the species. It enhances social groupings, allows for natural behaviors such as breeding, and fosters genetic diversity.
“In keeping with our mission of aquatic animal conservation and research, Beethoven’s participation in the cooperative beluga breeding program will help ensure that the public is able to continue to connect with these amazing creatures for decades to come,” Dr. Bossart said. “The opportunity to study and learn from beluga whales in our care; including following animals through various stages of their life like pregnancy, birth, early development, and old age, enables Georgia Aquarium and our zoological partners to share information with the marine mammal community and help better understand these animals and how to help contribute to their conservation worldwide.”
Belugas worldwide are listed as "Near Threatened" on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. The species also is listed as “Endangered” in specific areas, including Cook Inlet, Alaska, and select areas of Canada.
Most of what is known about marine mammal reproduction and beluga calves has been learned by professionally caring for and studying animals in accredited zoological facilities. Georgia Aquarium and its partners share what they learn to benefit animals globally.
“Our hands-on experiences and non-invasive research, and the subsequent scientific advances that have resulted from them, benefit marine mammals in our care, marine mammals globally, and our rescue and rehabilitation work with wild dolphin and beluga adults and calves domestically,” Dr. Bossart said.
Public Relations Contact:
Senior Public Relations Specialist
ABOUT GEORGIA AQUARIUM
Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta, Georgia, contains more than 10 million gallons of water and has the largest collection of aquatic animals. The mission of Georgia Aquarium is to be an entertaining, educational and scientific institution featuring exhibits and programs of the highest standards, offering engaging and exciting guest experiences promoting the conservation of aquatic biodiversity throughout the world. Georgia Aquarium is an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums. For additional information, visit www.georgiaaquarium.org.