|Baby Beluga in the deep blue sea,
Swim so wild and you swim so free.
Heaven above, and the sea below,
And a little white whale on the go.
Sorry, Raffi, your song, “Baby
Beluga,” got it wrong! Baby belugas are gray. They only
become white as they mature. That was one of the interesting
facts that I learned during my Beluga Encounter, a beluga
whale interaction program, at Vancouver Aquarium.
We were led to a rack of clothes
each donned a rain jacket, life vest, and waterproof pants
that were reminiscent of “feety pajamas.” We looked a little
like the Gorton’s Fisherman, but we didn’t care; we were
dressed up to meet a beluga whale. First, we visited a food
preparation room where we helped prepare the belugas’
seafood diet, then we headed off to meet a beluga.
We stroked Qila’s back. She felt a
lot like a dolphin: cool, smooth, firm, and rubbery. When we
pet the top of Qila’s head, I was surprised to discover that
her large melon was soft and squishy. After we’d become
acquainted with the beautiful beluga, we were taught to cue
some of Qila’s behaviors using hand and arm signals. We rewarded Qila for her
tossing raw fish into her pink, toothy
mouth. A few behaviors involved Qila spitting or splashing a
large amount of ice-cold aquarium water on us. Fortunately,
our Beluga Encounter outfits kept us fairly dry, although a
small amount of water did end up down the front of my
I did this in 2006 at Vancouver Aquarium in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
On June 10th, 2008, Qila became a mother when she gave birth to a 50 kilogram, 1.4 meter long, little gray baby beluga who was named Tiqa (TEE-kah).
|Dr. Jen (California, USA)|