Observations at Parturition in Eight Beluga Whales (Delphinapterus leucas)
IAAAM 1994
Leslie M. Dalton1, DVM; Todd R. Robeck1, DVM; Paul P. Calle2, VMD; Robert A. Cook2, VMD
1Sea World of Texas, San Antonio, TX; 2Wildlife Conservation Society Bronx, NY

Little information exists describing beluga whale periparturient events. Sea World of Texas in San Antonio, Texas has had four successful births and one stillborn since August of 1992 and the Aquarium for Wildlife Conservation in Brooklyn, New York has had three successful births since August 1991. The events observed surrounding parturition in these eight beluga calves provides an insight into variations that can occur. Figure 1 illustrates the average and standard deviation of food consumed in kg per animal per day, 14 days prior to and 15 days after calving. Table 1 compares various stages of parturition in hours as well as time elapsed from birth until the calf was observed nursing. The last column in Table 1 indicates the calf's sizes at its age in days.

Figure 1.
Figure 1.

Average and standard deviation of each animals (N = 8) daily food consumption 14 days prior to and 15 days after calving.

Parturition and Size Observations


All calves were delivered flukes first, i.e., longitudinal, posterior presentation in a dorso-sacral position. Dl-1, 2, 3, 6, 7, and 8 presented with the pectoral flippers caudally and the ventral surface of the flippers against the thoracic wall. Dl-5 presented with its left pectoral flipper cranial having the dorsal surface of the flipper against the body and its right flipper in a caudal position. Delivery was uneventful due to the small size of the calf. Dl-4 presented with the left pectoral flipper in a caudal position and the right flipper in a cranial position. This calf had to be delivered by fetotomy due to its size and the position of the flippers.

Speaker Information
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Leslie M. Dalton, BA, DVM
Sea World of Texas
San Antonio, TX, USA

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