- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 28, 2005

BALTIMORE — After months of anticipation, an Atlantic bottlenose dolphin gave birth to a 30-pound, 3-foot-long calf, officials at the National Aquarium in Baltimore announced yesterday.

Before giving birth Monday evening at the National Aquarium, the mother weighed nearly 500 pounds and was on a strict diet. She was watched 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and had undergone frequent ultrasounds.

The new mother is 33-year-old Nani.

Nani had been observed around the clock since mid-March by a team of volunteers awaiting the birth of her calf, according to Molly Foyle, director of media relations.

“We have been making sure she has all the calories and nutrients that she needs,” Miss Foyle said.

During gestation Nani was described as being “picky,” eating herring, capelin and squid.

However, she always cooperated for her ultrasounds.

“She’s been trained to present,” Miss Foyle said. “At a certain signal, she’ll come to a space where she will show her belly.”

The sex of the calf is still unknown. “Chances are if it’s a female, the calf will stay at the aquarium,” Miss Foyle said. “But, if it’s a male he may only stay for a couple of years.”

According to mammal experts, a third of calves won’t live to their first birthday.

“Mortality rates are really high, regardless of whether they are born in an aquarium setting or open ocean,” Miss Foyle said. “Ultimate survival depends on the mother.”

Two calves died last year at the National Aquarium, including a 10-day old male calf that died from bacterial meningitis and a 4-month-old female calf that died from pneumonia.

Nani’s mate, Bob, was the latest causality at the National Aquarium. Bob was euthanized in March after a six-month battle with a severe infection.

Bob was a breeding dolphin on loan from Walt Disney World.

Nani was purchased from Sea-Arama of Galveston, Texas, which has since closed, along with two other dolphins in 1990.

The gestation period is about 11 months to 12 months. Experts do not know how long Nani was pregnant, but estimate she became pregnant last summer. Dolphins are polygamous, and mating season is throughout the year.

The popular dolphin show at the Marine Mammal Pavilion in the National Aquarium has been temporarily discontinued, but visitors can still check out the amphitheater and the underwater viewing area.

It is unknown when the dolphin show will resume.

“We don’t want to startle the calf,” Miss Foyle said. “We also need to give Nani and the calf time to bond.”

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