CHICAGO, Dec. 15 (UPI) -- First-time mom Allison, a nine-year-old bottlenose dolphin, successfully birthed a male calf a the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago Friday. The baby bottlenose measured three and a half feet in length and weighed in at just under 40 pounds.
Not long after birth, zookeepers with the Chicago Zoological Society -- the organization that manages the Brookfield Zoo -- noted two key milestones. Mother and calf were observed both nursing and slipstreaming, whereby the little one floats alongside his mom as she swims, creating a hydrodynamic wake as she goes.
"We are encouraged with the behavior we are seeing from both Allison and the calf," Rita Stacey, the zoo's curator of marine mammals, said in a press release. "However, we remain cautiously optimistic as the first 30 days are extremely critical in the calf's life."
The first year of life of a dolphin calf is a vulnerable endeavor, both in the wild and in captivity. Earlier this December, Brookfield lost another newborn calf just ten minutes after birth.
The Brookfield Zoo's underwater viewing exhibition will be momentarily closed to allow Allison and her newborn time to bond in privacy. The pair won't be entirely alone, however. They will remain in the Seven Seas pool with three others: mother Tapeko, wise beyond her years at 33, as well as one-year-old son Merlin and his one-year-old half-brother Magic.
"The current grouping mimics what occurs in the wild," Stacey explained. "Dolphins are gregarious and form fluid social groupings throughout their lives. Mothers often form groups with other females who help in raising their young. Having successfully raised several calves of her own, including Merlin, Tapeko is a wonderful role model to Allison."