From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Kayavak (born August 3, 1999) is a female beluga whale[1] that currently resides at the Shedd Aquarium in downtown Chicago, Illinois, USA. She is the only daughter of the mother beluga named Immiayuk.[1] The father whale, Inuk, was moved to Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut, to breed with other whales.[1]

Early life[edit]

Kayavak was born on 3 August 1999 to a beluga named Immiayuk at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago[1] and was described by Shedd as "a happy, healthy and curious calf".[citation needed] As part of a Shedd tradition, she was given an Inuit name. "Kayavak" means "singing game producing soft echoes".[citation needed]

Death of her mother[edit]

Immiayuk died suddenly on December 26, 1999. The cause of death was erysipelas, a rare bacterial infection[1] found in the fish that the whales eat. Many feared that Kayavak would also soon die without the nurturing of her mother.[1] The aquarium decided that Kayavak might be rejected if introduced to another adult female, Puiji, for nurturing purposes,[citation needed] and it was feared that even the best substitute formula would not give her enough nutrients.[2] (The first such substitute was used for the first time in July 2010 when a beluga calf at SeaWorld San Antonio was rejected by her mother).[citation needed]

Kayavak needed around-the-clock monitoring and constant attention. Trainers hand-fed her with fish every three hours, although the beluga is not usually weaned for a year.[1]

Second year and transition into adulthood[edit]

During her first year Kayavak had only been in contact with two other beluga whales, being her mother and Puiji.[clarification needed] The aquarium then decided that she was ready for contact with the other resident whales: Naya, Mauyak, and adult male Naluark.[1] Mauyak was pregnant and was extremely aggressive towards Kayavak, while the other two also displayed antipathy.

In 2000, Mauyak gave birth to her first calf, a male named Qannik, who befriended Kayavak.[1] The two young whales shared the same father, and they were separated in June 2007, with Qannik being sent to Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium, where he died in 2009.[3] Kayavak started spending more time[clarification needed] with Naluark, an adult male to whom the aquarium had been reluctant to introduce Kayavak.[clarification needed]

As Kayavak matured sexually, she became subject to abuse by older whales, including Naluark and Mauyak.[clarification needed]

As of August 2011, Kayavak is a healthy 12-year-old whale and lives with another seven of her species at the aquarium. She is ranked lowest in the natural hierarchical system of that whale community.[citation needed] She can be identified by a distinct white birthmark that somewhat resembles that of a human palm.[citation needed] Kayavak usually is the star of the Beluga Encounter Program that allows people to interact with the Shedd's beluga whales.[4]

She has earned the nickname "the sassy one" by her trainers due to her playful and rebellious nature.[citation needed] It is hoped[by whom?] that she and Naluark could have a calf together in the future.[5][dubious ]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Mullen, William (July 14, 2001). "Beluga buddies are an odd couple". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2011-10-29. 
  2. ^ http://www.sheddaquarium.org/kayavak_story.html
  3. ^ "Point Defiance Zoo's beluga whale dies after infection". The Seattle Times. 30 March 2009. Archived from the original on 23 September 2011. 
  4. ^ "Chicago: Beluga Encounter Habitat". TimeOut. Retrieved 2011-10-29. 
  5. ^ "Encyclopædia Britannica, Advocacy for Animals: Being Kayavak". Encyclopædia Britannica. July 2007. Retrieved 2011-10-29. 

External links[edit]