A bottlenose dolphin, Onda, has given birth to a male calf at Mediterraneo Marine Park in Baħar iċ-Ċagħaq.

Marineland Ltd, the company that runs the park, said the birth two weeks ago formed part of a “species propagation programme” planned in Malta for some time.

Veterinary surgeons, trainers, biologists, voluntary workers and staff at the park had all been anxiously watching Onda through her gestation period, to ensure nothing went wrong with her or her calf.

Following the birth, the monitoring became even more intensive, because there are numerous ways a dolphin calf can come to harm in the hours, days and weeks after it comes into the world. In fact, the likelihood a calf will not have any complications after being born is less than 60 per cent during the first few days of its life.

The first thing Onda had to do was to keep the 13 kilo, one-metre-long calf underwater for his lungs to expand when it was taking its first breaths. Shortly after, she had to feed him with his first milk, called colostrum, which contained antibodies to protect him from fatal infections.

Onda will be nursing the calf for up to two years. During the first few days after he was born she was eating about 20 kilograms of fish a day compared to her usual seven to eight kilograms due to the energy she was using up caring for him.

The calf was fathered by Lucas, a 12-year-old bottlenose dolphin, who like Onda was brought to Mediterraneo from Cuba.

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