SAN ANTONIO (KXAN) — A beluga whale gave birth Thursday morning at SeaWorld San Antonio.
SeaWorld says the calf, whose sex is yet to be determined, made its head first entrance into the pool after about 30 minutes of labor. The park’s zoological team has been on 24-hour patrol since July 1 in anticipation of the birth. Mother “Luna” delivered the calf, which weights around 140 pounds.
Luna was born at the park in 2000 and this is her third calf. “The calf’s sire, ‘Imaq,’ comes from the Vancouver Aquarium and is currently in the care of SeaWorld San Antonio,” the park said in a statement.
“SeaWorld is deeply committed to the health and care of all our animals, and we are happy to report that the new calf has been observed bonding and swimming with mom as expected,” said Chris Bellows, SeaWorld San Antonio’s vice president for zoological operations. “We expect the calf to begin nursing soon, which is one of the first signs of health and well-being in a newborn.”
SeaWorld says the first week in the life of a dolphin or whale are critical. The park says the birth is significant given the increasing dangers beluga whales face in the wild, including an Arctic marine ecosystem “disappearing at an alarming rate.”
In order to give the mother and calf time to bond, presentations in Beluga Stadium are suspended. The park plans to hold limited visiting hours to see the calf in the next few days.
The celebratory occasion comes after a tragic year for the park’s beluga whales. In November 2015, a 2-year-old beluga whale died after experiencing apparent stomach trouble. A newborn beluga whale also died at the park in July 2015.