Shedd staff camping in for pregnant dolphin
BY MARK KONKOL Writer at Large firstname.lastname@example.org May 16, 2012 12:02AM
About 50 Shedd Aquarium staffers will be camping out at the aquarium while it's closed during NATO to be on Dolphin baby watch and take care of the other fish. Piquet, a Pacific white-sided dolphin is expecting its first baby. Ken Ramirez, Exec. VP Animal Care & Animal Training shows off his sleeping mattress and bag. | Al Podgorski~Chicago Sun-Times
Updated: June 17, 2012 8:22AM
There’s nothing fishy — or even political — about the scheduled sit-in of sorts at the Shedd Aquarium during the NATO Summit.
Veterinarians, animal caretakers and building engineers are set to lock themselves inside the lakefront tourist attraction — which will be closed Saturday through Monday as NATO protesters occupy downtown — to keep tabs on Piquet, a pregnant Pacific white-sided dolphin that could give birth to her first little flipper any day now.
Shedd brass voluntarily closed the aquarium because snarled traffic, protest marches and possibly unscripted acts of civil disobedience likely would deter visitors anyway.
“It came down to logistics,” Shedd spokesman Roger German said. “Road closures and parking restrictions would make it tough for people to get to the museum campus.”
And for those same reasons more than 50 Shedd staffers armed with sleeping bags and sack lunches will spend a few overnights on baby dolphin watch.
“If she did go into labor during NATO and museum campus security is tight, it might be difficult to get here, and we want to have a full team here to help her if there’s a problematic birth,” Shedd Executive Vice President Ken Ramirez said. “In an urgent situation we’ll be ready to respond.”
Shedd staff already are keeping minute-by-minute logs of Piquet’s almost every move. They write down everything from the number of times she expresses breast milk, rubs herself on habitat rocks — even the color of her defecations. If you must know, Piquet’s lunchtime poop was a medium-sized, light-green cloud, according to Shedd records.
Each of those things, plus the number of times Piquet (pronounced PEE-ket) crunches and stretches her body, are potential indicators of when the dolphin might go into labor.
“We know when she’ll give birth between six and 12 hours before she actually does,” Ramirez said. “If she went into labor tomorrow I would not be surprised. I also wouldn’t be surprised if it happens in June.”