SOUTH LOOP — The bright white baby beluga whale born in August at the Shedd Aquarium is a girl, officials announced Tuesday morning.
The calf was born to Shedd resident Mauyak on Aug. 27 and has steadily gained between 12 and 15 pounds per week since, a healthy growth rate according to Ken Ramirez, Vice President of Animal Care and Training at the aquarium. She weighed in at 215 pounds Tuesday, perfect for her age, Ramirez said.
Aquarium staff only recently established the calf's gender, a complicated process since the species' sex organs are all internal, Ramirez told DNAinfo Chicago.
The next step will be naming the calf. Ramirez says there haven't yet been any suggestions, but her mother Mauyak's name means "snow" in Inuit, and her sibling Miki is also named for an Inuit word, meaning "little."
The calf's most dominant personailty trait is her playfulness, and aquarium staff say she often visits with 6-year-old Miki and neighboring dolphin Piquet's baby through grates that separate their habitats.
She's also mimicking her mother's behavior and demonstrating independence, all good signs, Ramirez said.
"We really can't wait for [Chicago] to meet her, Shedd staff member Elise Waugh told DNAinfo Chicago. "They're always so excited when we have a very, very cute new marine mammal."
The calf's habitat below water level will be available for public view starting Friday, but the upper level will be obscured with screens until animal care staff members determine she's ready.