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Youngest of Shedd's Beluga Pod, Annik, Reaches Another Milestone, His First Birthday

Annik Interacts with the Pod, Learns New Behaviors and Reaches Milestones

July 01, 2020

Small grey beluga calf Annik sticks his head above the water.

As the aquarium prepares to reopen to the public on Friday, July 3, the date also marks a milestone for the newest addition to Shedd Aquarium’s beluga pod, Annik (AH-nik), as he reaches his one-year birthday. During his first year, the healthy, energetic beluga calf has reached important milestones, such as bonding with his mom Mauyak (MY-yak), nursing, growing, socializing with other beluga whales, participating in animal care sessions and more.

The dark gray beluga calf has become very interactive with the aquarium’s seven other belugas and the animal care team. Annik is often spotted with the other youngest member of the beluga pod, seven-year-old Kimalu. The pair interact playfully and are often seen spitting water at one another. The animal care team shared how they enjoy seeing him learn alongside another beluga and incorporate it into his regular sessions.

During his sessions, the animal care team builds a strong, trusting relationship with Annik. Some sessions involve more play as he explores his habitat and eats fish, while during others Annik is learning new behaviors like moving between habitats, swimming to his specific training shape, following an animal care team member’s hand and more. These sessions provide physical exercise, mental stimulation and allows for regular check-ups.

Annik only has one milestone left after his first birthday, weaning from his mother’s milk. Mauyak gave birth to the 5-foot-long, 150-pound healthy beluga calf on July 3, 2019 in Abbott Oceanarium. Today, the fast-growing calf is estimated to be over 400 pounds. As the aquarium celebrates this one-year-old calf, there are two belugas expected to deliver calves this summer.

VISUALS: Annik is the darkest gray and smallest beluga whale at Shedd Aquarium but he continues to grow fast. One of Annik’s most recognizable behavior traits is his independence. He spends a lot of time exploring enrichment and swimming with the other belugas.

High-resolution visuals of Annik are available for preview and download here:
Photo Credit: ©Shedd Aquarium/Brenna Hernandez
Video Credit: ©Shedd Aquarium/Sam Cejtin