White whale born at Primorye Aquarium

White whale born at Primorye Aquarium

15 September 2021

On 1 August, Jessica, a fourteen-year-old beluga from the Primorye Aquarium, gave birth to a baby whale. This is the first time that a white whale has had offspring in a dolphinarium in Russia. 


Igor Kostychev, head of the dolphinarium of the Primorye Aquarium, said that Jessica gave birth to the calf herself and did not need the help of doctors.


“The baby girl was born at night, at 20 minutes past one, and almost immediately began to drink her mother's milk herself, although not all belugas start nursing in the first days after birth. Jessica, who turned out to be a very caring mother, started out feeding her baby once or twice an hour, and now does so less often but for a longer time. In a few months, the baby whale will try fish, but will rely on her mother's milk for the first one and a half to two years of life,” explained Kostychev.


Beluga whales are born blue-brown, which is why newborns are often called “aubergines.” Then the babies turn gray, and fade to white as they grow older. The little beluga is currently going through its first molt. According to biologists, this natural process means not only a colour change, but also that the small whale is developing normally.


The baby’s father, a beluga whale named Ler, stays close to his family.


“The first few days after birth, when the calf was just learning to swim, the parents pushed her to the surface, supporting her on the water. Every day the little beluga swam better and better, and within a week she learned to hold her breath for a long time,” the website of the Primorye Aquarium reads.


Igor Kostychev also said that the experts are closely watching the beluga whales, but they try not to disturb the mother and baby.


“The first weeks of life are associated with high risks to the health and well-being of a baby, especially of first-time mothers. It is the same for beluga whales in nature,” he said.


After a strict “nursery” quarantine, trainers, veterinarians and scientists will be able to observe the first beluga whale baby born in the Russian aquarium. Jessica and her firstborn have already drawn close attention from marine biologists and hydroacousticians.


Pregnancy in beluga whales lasts 12-14 months, and the calf stays with its mother for at least two years.