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 June 07, 2009
Aurora delivers her third calf at Vancouver Aquarium

 A baby beluga whale was born Sunday afternoon at the Vancouver Aquarium.

Aurora, the Aquarium's 21-year-old grandmother beluga, was in labour for about four hours.

She went into labour just after 11 a.m.

A small crowd erupted in ooohs and ahhhs as they pushed against the glass aquarium and watched as the baby would slide out a little before sliding back in.

But after three close calls, Aurora successfully pushed the baby calf out at 3:39 p.m Sunday.

"It was just an absolutely picture-perfect moment. It looks like we've got a real healthy calf. It's everything we could hope for," said Clint Wright, senior vice-president of the Vancouver Aquarium.

Aurora and the calf's father Imaq, came to the aquarium in Aug. 1990 from Churchill, Man. The other whales were separated from Aurora once she showed signs of labour this morning.

Specialists knew she was pregnant 15 months ago after a regular blood test showed high levels of progesterone, a pregnancy hormone.

Wright said the pregnancy was smooth for Aurora, who has delivered two other calfs.

"She's a very successful mother and grandmother. She's comfortable with looking out for calves," he said.

Aurora gave birth to Qila on July 23, 1995. Her second child died when he was three and a half years old.

Wright said Aurora helped her daughter take care of her first child, Tiqa.

"She knows what to do. She's keeping her body on the outside so she can protect the calf," Wright said as he watched the pair swim side-by-side.

The calf immediately rose to the surface for its first breath of air, a milestone specialists watch for, Wright said.

In the next few days, Aquarium staff will monitor the calf and mother for key events including bonding, nursing and ensuring both the mother and child are healthy and strong.

Wright said the Aquarium anticipates a problem-free nursing period.

"The bonding is there. The mother is looking for her baby and the baby looks for its mother," Wright said.

The pair looked extremely happy swimming together because of the Beluga's permanently upturned 'smile' mouth, he noted.

"It just blows you away. You see it, and you can't believe that all this time, 15 months, that something so large can come out of it," he said.

Source: The Province