https://youtu.be/OKvYd3z6iCQJust in time for spring, another big bundle of joy will be arriving at Georgia Aquarium. Qinu (KEY-new), a 13-year-old beluga whale is expecting a calf! Based on animal health team monitoring and beluga whales’ gestation period of 14-15 months, the calf’s due date is estimated for mid-summer of this year. The sex of the calf will not be known until after birth.
The animal health and animal care teams work together to not only ensure the very best care, but to monitor animals as they grow during every phase of life. They were able to confirm Qinu’s pregnancy with a routine ultrasound. Ultrasounds are not only used for pregnancies, but to also monitor internal organs and other elements in many of the animals at the Aquarium. Her care teams are monitoring the calf’s growth through ultrasound imagery.
“Qinu’s pregnancy is exciting for all of us on her care team,” said Dennis Christen, senior director of animal training, mammals and birds, at Georgia Aquarium. “In addition to that, this calf is incredibly important to us and future generations’ ability to see and connect with belugas. Through that we are also able to continue our valuable research on these magnificent Arctic animals.”
This is Qinu’s second pregnancy. Her first pregnancy was in 2017, unfortunately, she experienced complications and the calf did not survive the birthing process. She is a young and healthy whale, and it is a good sign of her health that she was able to become pregnant again. The Aquarium’s animal care and animal health teams are optimistic she will have a safe delivery and will provide any assistance necessary. As Qinu’s pregnancy progresses, the animal care and training team will begin an observation program. Leading up to the birth, staff and volunteers will be on-site 24 hours a day, noting specific behaviors and measuring respirations. That will continue even after the calf is born and includes monitoring important mother and calf bonding and nursing behavior.
Beluga whale pods change and grow over time at zoological facilities and in the ocean. Georgia Aquarium’s pod currently has four females and one male: Whisper, Qinu, Maple, Shila (SHY-la), and Imaq (EE-mack). Whisper gave birth to Shila on May 17, 2020 and the Aquarium will celebrate another big milestone soon: her first birthday. As the pod grows, male beluga whale, Nunavik (Noon-AH-vick) recently moved to another accredited facility to provide him with a new social group as he matures and to learn from similarly aged males.
“We spend every day with these animals and develop incredible bonds with them. While this is a great opportunity and an integral part in his growing up, it is still difficult to see Nunavik leave Georgia Aquarium,” said Christen. “It’s definitely a bittersweet moment as we prepare to welcome another calf and Shila gets ready to turn one, but we’re all so thankful for the time we’ve spent with him.”
As Qinu and her animal care and animal health teams prepare for the delivery of her calf, stay tuned for updates by following Georgia Aquarium on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram or by visiting news.georgiaaquarium.org. For more information on beluga whales, visit Georgia Aquarium’s Animal Guide.