This morning, at the first aquatic presentation of the day, Shedd Aquarium revealed the winning name of Pod Poll 2019 – a public vote to decide on a name for the 4-month-old beluga calf born in early July. After nearly 20,000 votes cast, the winning selection is Annik (AH-nik) which means “blizzard” in the language of the Inuit. The calf’s mom, Mauyak (MY-yak), whose name means “soft snow,” also got in on the fun – spraying water at a giant envelope held by the beluga care team during the presentation to reveal the winning name to guests.
“We haven’t named a beluga calf at Shedd in seven years, so this was a special moment for guests but also for our staff and the beluga care team,” said Maris Muzzy, manager of whales and dolphins at Shedd Aquarium. “We couldn’t be happier with the name our guests decided on. While Mauyak’s name represents her calm, graceful demeanor, so does Annik describe this calf’s fierce spirit and rambunctious energy.”
The week-long vote kicked off at Shedd’s Asleep with the Fishes overnight on Nov. 15 – to the surprise and delight of the families who attended. From there, Shedd allowed the public to vote as many times as they liked both online and on-site. Voting stations in the aquarium included beluga-focused trivia and activities to help guests learn more about the arctic animals. This allowed voters to walk away knowing more about belugas and building an affinity for aquatic life.
““We couldn’t be happier with the name our guests decided on. While Mauyak’s name represents her calm, graceful demeanor, so does Annik describe this calf’s fierce spirit and rambunctious energy.””Maris Muzzy, manager of whales and dolphins
Annik captured the attention of both guests and care staff since Shedd welcomed him on July 3. He currently weighs more than 330 pounds and has grown over a foot in length in his first four months.
This growth, his nursing and swimming behavior and more were observed and documented around-the-clock after his birth by the beluga care team. The resulting data not only informs Shedd’s animal health and welfare practices – it’s also being sharing with researchers, field biologists and conservation partners in other parts of the world, who can use information to continue learning about the species and make management decisions that protect wild belugas and habitats that might be critical for their survival.
Shedd Aquarium has a long history of taking the skills and information gathered from caring for belugas in human care and applying them to benefit their wild counterparts. In September 2019, Shedd Aquarium sent staff for a second year to support an annual census of the critically endangered beluga subpopulation in Alaska’s Cook Inlet. The aquarium has also previously conducted health assessments, participated in multiple rescue operations and is currently co-funding three studies to better understand the threats and challenges to the most vulnerable wild beluga populations.
Annik will remain close to mom for the foreseeable future, but he has already started interacting with the care staff at Shedd and has even been seen playing with and mouthing fish offered by trainers or shared with him by the other whales.
VISUALS: High-resolution photos/video of the beluga calf at Shedd:
Photo credit: ©Shedd Aquarium/Brenna Hernandez