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Shedd's newborn dolphin dies after failing to nurse

By William Mullen
Tribune staff reporter

October 4, 2003

A male Pacific white-sided dolphin born Sunday in Shedd Aquarium died Thursday afternoon after failing to learn to nurse from its mother, Tique, an 18-year-old female that had conceived through artificial insemination.

It was the second stroke of bad news for the aquarium's marine mammal staff this week, after another dolphin, Kri, delivered a stillborn male calf Wednesday.

Kri and Tique were impregnated at the same time in an experimental program the aquarium is conducting with Sea World in San Antonio, where a third female was impregnated at roughly the same time. That dolphin gave birth two weeks ago to a male calf that is nursing and thriving, Shedd officials said.

Seeing Tique's calf fail to nurse or even indicate that it knew how to nurse, keepers called the mother to the side of the pool and removed some of her milk with a breast pump, said Shedd spokesman Roger Germann.

The keepers then fed the calf through a tube.

"They just weren't able to give it enough milk with that method," Germann said. "Normal nursing calves need to nurse every 20 minutes or so."

Germann said calves born to inexperienced dolphin and whale mothers often fail to survive. Kri had never been pregnant before, and Tique had a stillborn calf several years ago. The mother of the surviving calf in San Antonio had previously given birth to calves that survived, he said.

Failure to nurse is a fatal behavior observed elsewhere in newborn calves, Germann said, but the cause is unclear.

Copyright © 2003, Chicago Tribune

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From Straw Dogs by John Gray...paraphrasing here:

In responding to environmental stress...mammals and other species cease to order to survive the body switches to an economical survival mode..the first energy hungry system to go is reproduction. This has been documented world wide in human women ( wide spread reproductive disorders and the like)and captive mammals...

Failure to nurse is a fatal behavior observed elsewhere in newborn calves, Germann said, but the cause is unclear
In keeping with the philosophy of the philosophy book I am studying, I would be hesitant to blame the calf and theorize that there was a communication from the mother either through the milk or development of the baby that forced the FTT. Especially since the conception was medically forced.

So so sad- when we will stop screwing with nature?!

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One other thought, 3-5 years ago, I read that a zoo in Russia was looking for nursing mothers to come to the zoo and breastfeed in front of the gorillas. Apparently, the gorillas had been born in captivity and never witnessed normal mother/baby relationships among their peers as they would have in the wild. They needed the human mothers to teach the gorillas how to breastfeed!
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