CHICAGO — After a nearly 20,000 votes, the Shedd Aquarium's newest baby beluga whale has a name. The baby has been named Annik, which is Inuit for blizzard.
He's only 4 months old, but already the most popular guy in the pod. The aquarium said guests seemed to enjoy the connection to mom’s name, Mauyak, which means “soft snow.”
Since Annik's arrival there has been a line of noses pressed to the glass along with adoring coos.
"There is nothing better,” Steve Aibel, senior director of marine mammals at the Shedd, said.
The trainers and marine specialists waited more than seven years for a baby beluga — a special and rare occurrence outside their Hudson Bay homeland of Canada.
"It’s about seeing the animals thrive, seeing what they would do out in the wild, raising babies and sharing that with the city of Chicago,” Aibel said.
So it only made sense that Chicago's very own beluga should be named by those who line up to see him.
"I voted for the name Kulu,” said one of the kids at the Shedd's voting booth.
Each of the five Inuit names are a nod to the rich culture the whales originated from.
“I think he should be named Annik,” said another young voter.
The kids may struggle to pronounce the names but are adamant about getting their pick in the bucket.
To Aibel, it's not just naming rights but a connection to a bigger family.
“I want people to realize that in a lot of ways our oceans are in peril. There's a lot of trash out there. There are a lot of things negatively affecting the fish. I want visitors to see these beautiful magnificent mammals and say, what can I do?" he said.
Aibel said it's not just about connecting with Chicago’s baby beluga but really caring about the world he came from.
“That is my dream — that we can create this bridge that helps whales out in the wild,” he said.