News Release

May 19, 2011

Contact : Sondra Katzen
Public Relations

Note: Images of Tapeko may be downloaded at

Dolphin Pregnant at Brookfield Zoo

      Brookfield, IL—The Chicago Zoological Society, which manages Brookfield Zoo, is delighted to announce that there will be a new addition to the common bottlenose dolphin family at Seven Seas before the end of the year. Tapeko, a 29-year-old dolphin, is pregnant and due to give birth mid-fall. Veterinary staff confirmed the pregnancy during an ultrasound exam, which they have been performing—and will continue to perform—on a routine basis to monitor the development of the fetus, which has a 12-month gestation period.

Tapeko, who has been at Brookfield Zoo since 1991, is an experienced mother, having successfully raised three calves. Two of her daughters, Noelani, 7, and Allison, 5, reside with her at Brookfield Zoo. Additionally, she was a surrogate for her grandson when one of her daughters, who was at the time a first-time mom, could not provide the proper care for her own calf. Chinook, 28, is the father of the calf due in the fall.

"Tapeko's upcoming birth is a very important one for the success of our breeding group of bottlenose dolphins,” said Rita Stacey, curator of marine mammals for the Chicago Zoological Society. “As an experienced mother, she will demonstrate crucial calf-rearing skills for the other females in the dolphin group, who will all be first-time mothers when their time comes. Tapeko will also allow the other females to swim with her calf, giving them ’flippers-on‘ training with young calves,” added Stacey.

The routine ultrasounds are just one example of the comprehensive medical care the animals receive at Brookfield Zoo. A component of the Chicago Zoological Society’s programmatic Center for the Science of Animal Welfare is the Behavioral Husbandry Program, in which animal care staff use positive reinforcement and operant conditioning techniques to let many of the zoo’s animals, including Tapeko, to be involved and active in their own care. Due to the relationship built on mutual trust and respect between trainers and animals, Tapeko voluntarily cooperated during these exams, allowing the veterinary staff to administer the ultrasound. She is rewarded for this behavior with food or a favorite toy.In addition to Tapeko, her two daughters, and Chinook, the dolphin family at Brookfield Zoo includes Spree, 8; Tatem, 7; and Nea, 3.

The announcement of Tapeko’s pregnancy comes as the Society is set to celebrate its 50th year of having dolphin presentations at Brookfield Zoo. In celebration of this milestone, Brookfield Zoo will be highlighting its group of seven common bottlenose dolphins, including Tapeko, with Decades of Dolphins on Saturday and Sunday, May 21 and 22. The weekend event will be filled with lots of memories and fun featuring music that reflects the decades from the 1960s to the present, special dolphin presentations, retro games, and crafts for kids.

The Chicago Zoological Society’s mission it to inspire conservation leadership by connecting people with wildlife and nature. Brookfield Zoo is known throughout the world for its innovative, naturalistic, multispecies exhibits and for its international role in animal population management and wildlife conservation. Open every day of the year, Brookfield Zoo is located off First Avenue between the Stevenson (I-55) and Eisenhower (I-290) expressways and is also accessible via the Tri-State Tollway (I-294), Metra commuter line, CTA, and PACE bus service.

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