Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Tragedy at the Baltimore Aquarium

**Just a warning, you might want a tissue**

In April, two dolphin calves were born at the Baltimore Aquarium. But now, not even three months old yet, they have both died in the same week.

The calves, one male and one female, were born to half-sisters Spirit and Maya. Both were first time mothers. Although the new mothers did need a bit of help learning how to nurse their babies, they did get the hang of it, and the calves seemed to be adjusting well. The male calf, who was two weeks younger, seemed to be shy and stick with his mother, Maya, while the female was much more independent and curious.

The dolphin show, which features the older dolphins, was changed to incorporate the calves, but not stress them out. The music was quieter, the crowd was encouraged to be as quiet as possible, and most of the noisier tricks were replaced with video footage of the babies at birth and the days after. The babies had begun to play together, opening their mouths when they saw each other, and they would also rub their flippers together, which is the dolphin way of holding hands. They had also begun to vocalize with clicks and "eeps." They had yet to be named.

*Shane and I actually saw the babies for the first time last weekend, just days before the first was found dead. They were adorable and seemed so happy. They were having a great time playing with a toy in the pool, helping each other trying to carry it around by the rope attached to it. *

The male dolphin was found last Tuesday. His mother was trying to revive him, carrying him to the surface so he could breathe, and trying to nurse him. The female died the following Saturday as the aquarium's medical workers tried to rescue her.

The aquarium staff is not sure of the cause of death for the two babies. Unfortunately, even when bred in captivity, dolphin calves have a 33% mortality rate, meaning that one in three don't survive their first year. A total of 14 calves have been born in Baltimore since 1992, and of those, five died within the first year, and two more died as juveniles. Although the aquarium staff had the two new calves under nearly 24/7 surveillance, it seems that nothing could have prevented this tragedy. The staff don't expect to resume breeding the dolphins anytime soon.

*I think this whole thing is just pitiful. I didn't realize that dolphins had such a low chance of survival, even if born at the aquarium. I can't even imagine what a difficult time this has been for the mother dolphins, as well as the staff at the aquarium. *

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