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Brookfield Zoo welcomes newborn dolphin calf

Brookfield Zoo officials say things are going swimmingly so far for a new dolphin calf born Friday afternoon.

Weighing in at about 40 pounds and measuring 3.5 feet long, the male calf was born about 1:15 p.m. to first-time mother Allison, a 9-year-old bottlenose, according to a statement from the Chicago Zoological Society, which manages Brookfield.

Researchers said they were encouraged by key milestones in the relationship forming between Allison and her newborn, including successful nursing and “slipstreaming” — a hydrodynamic way for the mother to swim and keep the resting newborn moving alongside in her wake.

Still, dolphin births aren’t considered successful until the calf reaches a year old, surpassing the timeframe when most dolphin calves are lost in the wild. A 1-week-old calf died at the zoo in August.

“We remain cautiously optimistic as the first 30 days are extremely critical in the calf’s life,” marine mammal curator Rita Stacey said.

Allison and her calf are in the Seven Seas main habitat with three other dolphins: Merlin and Magic, both 1, and 33-year-old Tapeko, an experienced mother who is expected to be a role model for the first-time mom.

“Mothers often form groups with other females who help in raising their young,” Stacey said, adding that Tapeko is Merlin’s mother.

The exhibit’s underwater viewing area will remain closed indefinitely to give Allison and her calf time to bond.

Zoo officials didn’t say when the newborn would be named. To keep up to date with the calf’s development before he makes his public debut, visit the zoo’s website.