VALLEJO (CBS SF) – Researchers are monitoring closely the relationship between a new baby dolphin, born at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo Thursday, and its mother.
Bella, a nine-year-old bottlenose dolphin, gave birth to her first calf Thursday at the park, nearly a week ahead of schedule. The pair is now being monitored around the clock by park officials.
According to The San Francisco Chronicle, the dolphin mother may have been the first to be witnessed vocalizing to her unborn baby. The sound was repeated Thursday after the 40-pound calf was born and took its first breath via blowhole.
As the Chronicle reported earlier this week, Bella surprised her trainers a few months ago when she was caught doing a “baby whistle” while in a tank alone. The distinctive sound is used by dolphin mothers to call their young. Scientists believe the signature noise helps young dolphins distinguish their mother from strangers.
“For a first time mother with no prior experience, we are very excited that Bella is demonstrating her maternal side in a big way,” said Michael Muraco, animal care director in a press release from the park. “We are cautiously optimistic because the first 30 days are critical in the health and welfare of a newborn.”
The baby’s gender has not been definitively confirmed, but is thought to be a female, according to a press release from the park. That would mark the first female born at the park in over 8 years. Seven dolphins have given birth at the Vallejo theme park in recent years, and park officials say they haven’t previously heard thepre-birth vocalizations.
The behavior has caught the interest of dolphin behavior researchers from the University of Southern Mississippi, reports the Chronicle.
Park officials said they will decide in coming weeks when the dolphin will make its public debut.