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A Pacific White-Sided Dolphin at Shedd is Expecting

Piquet, an Experienced Mother at Shedd, Joins Pregnant Beluga Whale Also Expecting Calf This Year

May 24, 2019

Pacific white-sided dolphin Piquet pokes her head from her watery habitat to peer at the camera as she floats on her back.

Shedd Aquarium announces today that Piquet, a 31-year-old Pacific white-sided dolphin at the aquarium, is pregnant and expected to give birth later this fall. The experienced mother previously gave birth to two calves at the aquarium – Makoa (2015) and Sagu (2012).

“Piquet and her developing calf are progressing exactly as they should, and our veterinary staff and care teams are working together to give her the excellent care that all the animals receive at Shedd,” said Steve Aibel, senior director of marine mammals at Shedd Aquarium. “Pacific white-sided dolphin births are a rare sight in the wild, so being able to share the progression of a pregnancy like Piquet’s speaks directly to what we do at Shedd – appreciate and understand these unbelievable animals and help guests recognize their role in safeguarding animals and the places they call home.”

Piquet is not the only cetacean (toothed whale) at Shedd that is pregnant. The aquarium announced late last year that Mauyak, a 37-year-old beluga whale is also pregnant and expected to give birth this summer. This also isn’t the first time Shedd has seen a pregnant beluga whale and a pregnant dolphin in the same year.

Both Mauyak and Piquet previously shared the spotlight in 2012, when both cetaceans gave birth to healthy, thriving calves at the aquarium. Mauyak gave birth to Kimalu, the most recent beluga calf the aquarium has seen, and Piquet welcomed Sagu – her first of her two calves. Kimalu, Sagu and Makoa are all still at Shedd, continuing to grow, develop and learn and provide valuable insights into their species.

“Aquariums like Shedd create a portal into our aquatic world, and we learn from – and share – extraordinary opportunities to look nature in the eye with each birth.”

Peggy Sloan, chief animal operations officer at Shedd Aquarium.

“We are fortunate, and thrilled, to be anticipating two significant births in the coming months – a Pacific white-sided dolphin and a baby beluga whale,” said Peggy Sloan, chief animal operations officer at Shedd Aquarium. “Our animal care experts spend the 12-16-month gestation period for each species respectively, preparing for the mothers and their young to thrive, with optimal welfare as the lens through which we make all our decisions.”

Caring for pregnant cetacean mothers and calves at the aquarium also helps strengthen the skills necessary for Shedd’s Animal Response Team to lead rescue, rehabilitation and release efforts. For example, last year Shedd joined a team of experts in Alaska to provide triage for a stranded beluga calfthat was part of the critically endangered subpopulation of belugas in Cook Inlet.

For the time being, Piquet’s days will remain the same: swimming with the other dolphins, including her two offspring, engaging with the care staff and guests, and participating in sessions as she chooses. The veterinarian team will visit her for regular checkups, including ultrasounds, or sonography, to visualize the developing calf. Everything is focused on what is best for Piquet and her needs as an expectant mother.
Guests can continue to see Piquet, whose name means “female of small stature” in the language of the Tlingit, in Shedd’s Abbott Oceanarium, and can be identified by a small white dot on the leading edge of her dorsal fin and another on the leading edge of her right pectoral fin. The aquarium will provide updates throughout her pregnancy.

“Aquariums like Shedd create a portal into our aquatic world, and we learn from – and share – extraordinary opportunities to look nature in the eye with each birth,” said Sloan. "Here, we experience our world beneath the waves by connecting directly with animals who rely on us – humans – for a healthy, thriving shared future. We’re looking forward to sharing upcoming pregnancy and birth milestones with Chicagoland and beyond as we prepare for our special new arrivals.”

VISUAL NOTE: Visit the following link to download high-resolution photos and footage from a recent sonogram of Piquet’s developing calf: https://personal.filesanywhere...
Photo credit: ©Shedd Aquarium/Brenna Hernandez