After thousands of votes were cast to choose the name of Shedd Aquarium‘s youngest male Pacific white-sided dolphin calf, the winning name was announced as Makoa (Ma-ko-ah), which means fearless in Hawaiian.
Makoa was born on June 1, 2015. The name was the clear winner out of the nearly 3,500 votes received during the weeklong voting contest. There was a close second of Kolohe (Ko-low-hey), which means rascal.
Makoa is healthy and growing, already weighing over 100 pounds. He is bonding with his mom, Piquet, and reaching all of his important developmental milestones.
Zoos and aquariums offer up-close glimpses into an animal’s world that would otherwise be impossible. We learn to respect and conserve animals through the connections we create with them. However, this isn’t only true for guests. Tim Binder, Shedd’s executive vice president of animal care said, “Naming the dolphin calf is Shedd’s way of welcoming him into the family, while also raising awareness about this fascinating open-water species that is extremely difficult to study in the wild.”
Some animals are much more elusive than others, making studies on their population, migration and breeding habits, and behavior very difficult or impossible. After all, we can’t accurately study what can’t be regularly seen, heard, or measured. “With only four accredited North-American institutions caring for less than 20 Pacific white-sided dolphins, our understanding of this taxon is very limited, making any predictions regarding the resiliency of the species or disturbances in their native habitat very difficult. Observing the animals in human care increases our understanding of their biology, behavior and sensitivity to environmental change, allowing us to inform protection management strategies for those in the wild, as well as to provide better care for the animals in accredited zoos and aquariums,” Binder added.
Being in the care of Shedd, Makoa and her family group are what’s known as ambassadors for their species, a critically important role. Makoa and other Pacific white-sided dolphins in human care are allowing scientists and researchers to obtain data about their species that was once impossible. This data can help humans understand the animal’s needs, behavior, and even what may threaten the species as a whole. This information can then be applied to conservation efforts for their wild counterparts. Further, guests who meet Makoa and others like him have the opportunity to come nose-to-nose with with amazing animals, reinforcing the need to protect them and their environments.
We’ve learned a lot from animals from up-close study, but many remain mysterious, leaving much to be discovered. Visit Makoa and her family, along with 32,000 fellow animal residents at Shedd Aquarium.