(Three of Brookfield Zoo's bottlenose dolphins are pregnant and due to give birth this summer and fall. Pictured left to right are: Spree, 10; Tapeko, 31; and Allie, 26. Credit: Chicago Zoological Society)
Brookfield Zoo is having an aquatic baby boom. Three of the zoo's dolphins -- Spree, 10; Tapeko, 31; and Allie, 26 -- are pregnant and expected to deliver later this summer or in the fall.
"Allie, Tapeko, and Spree are all healthy and their pregnancies are progressing well," said Jennifer Langan, associate veterinarian for the Chicago Zoological Society, in an email.
Just like pregnant humans, ultrasounds and blood work are part of a dolphin's regular prenatal care routine. Staff at the zoo's Seven Seas also use a computer program they developed that helps track dolphin behavior. Changes to the routine can indicate that labor is imminent.
Allie and Tapeko are experienced mothers with five children between them. Two of Tapeko's daughters -- Noelani, 9, and Allison, 7 -- live at Brookfield Zoo. This is the first pregnancy for Spree, who met Allie, Tapeko and Allison at the Minnesota Zoo in 2009 when the three dolphins were moved there during Brookfield's Seven Seas renovation.
Tapeko and Spree's babies were sired by Chinook, said Sondra Katzen, zoo spokeswoman. Semo, who is at another facility, impregnated Allie. All the dolphins are part of the Bottlenose Dolphin Breeding Consortium, which facilitates breeding to grow a healthy dolphin population at seven member institutions, including Brookfield Zoo.
The orphaned Spree, named after the candy, never clicked with the animals at Minnesota but found companionship in the three from Brookfield. She moved to Illinois with her new social circle in 2010.
(Jennifer Langan, associate veterinarian for the Chicago Zoological Society (center), performs an ultrasound on Tapeko, 31, one of three pregnant bottlenose dolphins at Brookfield Zoo. She is assisted by Kate Sladek, senior veterinary technician (left) and Mark Gonka, lead keeper. In addition to routine ultrasounds, other prenatal factors staff track include weight gain, body temperature, dietary intake, blubber thickness, and girth. Credit: Chicago Zoological Society)