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12 posts from August 2013

August 29, 2013

Happy first birthday, Kimalu!

Kimalu first bday adorable_blog

Beluga whale Kimalu celebrated her milestone first birthday on Aug. 27.

Although she’ll be a baby in her trainers’ and other Shedd friends’ eyes for years to come, she has come a long way from her 5-foot, 150-pound birth size. At her last exam in March, Kimalu was 6 feet 6 inches long and weighed about 325 pounds. (Because she is so healthy, the animal care and animal health teams haven’t needed to weigh her since then.) As you can see from the photos taken last week, the little whale is plenty plump. And you don’t need a scale or tape measure to see that she’s growing—her mottled appearance indicates that she’s about ready to slough her outgrown skin again.

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August 27, 2013

Dog Days at Shedd: Meet Dory and Coral

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Our current heat wave has appropriately coincided with National Dog Day, Aug. 26. The sultry days of late summer have been called the Dog Days since Roman times. The warmer-than-your-furry-friend weather was associated with the prominence of Sirius, the Dog Star and the brightest feature in the constellation Canis Major, or Greater Dog.

We’re quite Sirius when we say that Shedd’s trio of talented canines—all adopted from Chicago-area shelters—are both great and stars.

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August 26, 2013

Farewell to Kachemak

Kachemak_blog (2)

Every sea otter pup that has found a home at Shedd Aquarium is special, but Kachemak had an impish charm that melted the hearts of trainers, other staff members, volunteers, donors and even jet pilots. Maybe it was because she was the first of Shedd’s sea otters raised from infancy on site.

On Saturday, at the extraordinary age of 23½, Kachemak was quietly put to sleep, releasing her from a rapid decline in the last week from age-related infirmities. She was the oldest sea otter known in any North American aquarium or zoo.

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August 21, 2013

Meet Maddie Caldwell

Maddie1My name is Madeline Caldwell, and I’m on the Great Lakes and Sustainability team at Shedd Aquarium.

My introduction to the Great Lakes was at my family’s summer cottage in Grand Haven, right on the Lake Michigan shoreline. Growing up, I spent every summer at our cottage; I played for hours on the beach, building sandcastles, swimming and body surfing.  

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August 19, 2013

12th St. Beach Sweep with H2O +


The Great Lakes depend on great people, and our beach sweep volunteers from H2O + proved this point at 12th St. Beach last Tuesday with another huge performance. With 75 volunteers, not only was this a big turnout, but our volunteers showed immense passion and commitment on an individual level, too.

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August 15, 2013

Happy birthday, Miki!


Beluga Miki must have been watching the dolphins during the aquatic shows because when it’s his turn in the spotlight, he can porpoise out of the water almost as high—and gracefully—as they can.

That’s no small achievement for a 10-foot, 950-pound whale.

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August 09, 2013

Shark Matchmaking


What do you think of when you hear the word “studbook”? Thoroughbred horses? Pedigreed dogs? How about sharks?

Lise Watson, Wild Reef collection manager, compiled and maintains the studbook for the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan, or SSP, for zebra sharks. An SSP is a carefully managed breeding program developed for species that are declining in the wild. Zebra sharks are heavily fished throughout most of their range, and their reef habitat is disappearing. The SSP is designed to establish healthy, genetically diverse and sustainable populations at Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) member organizations.

“I’m kind of a matchmaker,” Lise quips—one who keeps a detailed and constantly updated database and works with a geneticist and population biologists to make the best-informed choices for several hundred zebra sharks at more than 30 North American aquariums and zoos.

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August 06, 2013

Shark Week: Sharks of a Different Stripe

Sea turtle Nickel isn’t the only animal at Shedd who enjoys being tickled: Some of the zebra sharks seem to like it, too.

“I think they like the feel of the bubbles coming out of our regulators,” says Lise Watson, Wild Reef collection manager. “During our maintenance dives, if we put our regulators underneath them, they dance around like the bubbles tickle their bellies. When they’re overly inquisitive, we’ll play with them like that, and then they usually let us get our work done.”

Dance? Play? Tickle? What sort of sharks are these zebras?

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August 05, 2013

Happy National Oyster Day!

Join the celebration of a small but delectable mollusk that has been enjoyed by people around the world for centuries.

A Brief History
Archaeological records suggest that humans have been eating oysters since the beginning of mankind, and the actual farming and harvest of oysters can be traced to Roman times! In fact, oysters were so popular amongst the Romans that they had them imported from all over the Mediterranean and European coasts.   

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August 03, 2013

Happy birthday to Kayavak!

Kayavak and Angie_blog

Beluga whale Kayavak turns 14 today. If a whale can be willowy, the description fits Kayavak. At 11 feet 8 inches, she is the second longest among Shedd’s belugas, while she maintains a svelte weight of 1,100 pounds. But she can throw that weight around when needed, including during the aquatic show, One World, when you might see her do an impressive breach and backward splash.

Maris Muzzy, senior trainer and cetacean manager, reports that Kayavak hangs out a lot with 3½-year-old male Nunavik “Both Kayavak and Nunavik have been very interactive with trainers outside of sessions,” Maris says, “and they often try to keep Bella and Miki from playing too.”

So now you know: Belugas don’t always share the trainers. As the adult among two subadults and one juvenile in this play group, Kayavak might be throwing her weight—and social rank—around a little bit.

We wish Kayavak, the first successful beluga birth at Shedd, a whale of a wonderful birthday with as many trainers to play with as she wants.

Karen Furnweger, web editor

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