Three Dolphins Expecting at Brookfield Zoo: Noelani, 9, and Allison, 7, and Chinook, 30.
The Chicago Zoological Society (CZS) is delighted to announce that three of its bottlenose dolphins are pregnant. The mothers-to-be—Allie, 26; Tapeko, 31; and Spree, 10—are due to give birth during the summer and fall.
“Allie, Tapeko, and Spree are all healthy and their pregnancies are progressing well,” said Jennifer Langan, DVM, Dipl. ACZM, associate veterinarian for CZS. “Prenatal care for the expecting dolphins includes some of the same procedures as for expecting human moms: ultrasound examinations and blood tests.”
“The care we provide to the pregnant dolphins is facilitated by the trusting relationships the dolphins have with their trainers and the veterinary staff,” said Rita Stacey, curator of marine mammals for CZS.
These relationships were created using positive reinforcement training, which allows the animals to voluntarily participate in their own health care. Seven Seas marine mammal staff are closely monitoring each dolphin. Factors they track in the course of the dolphins' daily activities include weight gain, body temperature, dietary intake, blubber thickness, and girth.
Additionally, staff uses a software program created at CZS to help record and monitor behavior trends. This specially designed program assists in identifying subtle changes in the dolphins’ behavior that can help predict the onset of labor. CZS’s husbandry and training programs are an important component of its Center for the Science of Animal Welfare, which is dedicated to providing the zoological profession’s most comprehensive welfare management and animal care.
CZS, a leader in dolphin care and research and a founding member of the Bottlenose Dolphin Breeding Consortium, is committed to breeding bottlenose dolphins cooperatively with the six other member institutions. The Consortium’s mission is to build and maintain a sustainable population of dolphins for member institutions, taking into account the animals’ social and biological needs as well as with the goal of focusing on conservation impact and connecting animals with guests.
Both Allie and Tapeko are experienced mothers, having had two and three successful calves, respectively. Spree is at Brookfield Zoo as part of cooperative work with Minnesota Zoo, one of the Consortium partners. This is her first pregnancy, and as with many mammals, including dolphins, first-time mothers and their baby are considered to be at higher risk during the pregnancy and after birth. A young dolphin’s first year, both under professional care and in the wild, is filled with challenges and milestones it must reach.
Because of these challenges, CZS field scientists, veterinarians, and husbandry managers work together to improve the well-being and health of dolphins at Brookfield Zoo and in the wild. The Consortium uses data from the Chicago Zoological Society’s Florida-based Sarasota Dolphin Research Program—the world’s longest-running study of a wild dolphin population—to model its social groupings, establish health baselines, and assess its success. Spearheaded by Dr. Randall Wells, senior conservation scientist for CZS, the program’s scientists and students have studied the five concurrent generations of bottlenose dolphins living year-round in Sarasota Bay, gathering unparalleled data that inform marine mammal managers and conservationists. Overall, breeding success of the Chicago Zoological Society dolphins compares very favorably with that observed in Sarasota Bay.
In addition to Allie, Tapeko, and Spree, other members of the dolphin group at Brookfield Zoo include Tapeko’s two daughters Noelani, 9, and Allison, 7, and Chinook, 30.