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CHICAGO — Excitement is building at the Shedd Aquarium this week over news of a new baby beluga.

It’s been six years since the last beluga whale birth at the aquarium, and the new baby’s arrival will not only add to the Shedd’s pod, but also give experts a rare opportunity to help Belugas thousands of miles away.

For decades, little was known about beluga gestation period, but thanks to the research and hands-on interaction at the Shedd and other institutions across the world, experts are now able to help rescue and protect the remaining wild populations in Alaska and Canada.

Through ultrasounds on pregnant belugas like Mayak, vets can gather data to help save others in the wild. A team of vets including Shedd Senior Director of Marine Animals Steve Aibel used some of the lessons they’ve learned to nurse an abandoned calf back to full health last winter in Alaska.

“Without the knowledge we gained in learning the feeding habits of baby belugas, how to create formula and maintain proper conditions, there’s a real chance that animal would have never survived,” Aibel said. “If we don’t do our part in helping to share the information that we’re learning daily with these animals, then they’re not gonna have a chance.”

On this #GivingTuesday, an anonymous donor is matching every donation to the Shedd dollar for dollar. Mayak is due to deliver sometime this summer. It will be her third calf born at the Shedd, and you can follow her progress – and support the Shedd – on their website.