LAS VEGAS - Duchess, one of 10 Atlantic bottlenose dolphins at Siegfried & Roy's Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat at The Mirage, gave birth to a male calf at 10:09 p.m. Feb. 27. The calf weighs approximately 30 pounds and is about three feet long.

This is the fourth birth at The Mirage for Duchess, a Dolphin Habitat resident since it opened in October 1990. Her three other offspring -Squirt, Pablo and Huf N Puf - continue to make the Dolphin Habitat their home. Banjo, the calf's father, also is an original resident and now has five offspring that were born and still reside at The Mirage. This birth rate is indicative of happy and healthy dolphins.

Dolphin Birth
"This habitat has one of the most successful breeding programs of marine mammals in the world," Siegfried said. "The success is attributed to the expertise of the staff and the tremendous support of The Mirage." Roy adds: "To celebrate this wonderful event, we are donating $1,000 to the Clark County School District for the education of our community's children. It's a way of sharing and giving back to the people of Las Vegas who have been so supportive of us." Siegfried & Roy have made the commitment to donate this amount every time a baby is born within their animal family. The contribution is part of the Kids Helping Kids for Education program. This donation will be in conjunction with The Mirage's Employee Dolphin Naming Contest. The winner will receive numerous prizes for coming up with the baby dolphin's name including a gift certificate, show tickets and the honor of selecting the Clark County school of their choice to receive the $1,000 donation. The contest began April 2 and ends April 18.

The soon-to-be-named calf was born following a 12-month gestation. Mother and baby are living in a maternity pod (the name for a dolphin group) with other females and a nursing calf. Two of the other females in the pod have no experience with the birthing process and are able to learn from Duchess. There are no males in the pod except for Rascal, who is still nursing.

"We feel that Duchess has great maternal skills based on her previous births," Roy said. "We'll continue 24-hour observations for several weeks."

For the past few months, there's been a great deal of activity behind the scenes in preparation for the birth. Ultrasounds were performed monthly for the first two trimesters and every two weeks thereafter to monitor both Duchess and her calf's progress. Fetal measurements were taken during the first trimester to help estimate the due date.

Calves are usually born tail first, as was this one, so the blowhole remains safely inside the mother until the baby is free. Immediately after birth, the calf swims to the surface for its first breath, sometimes assisted by its mother.

Nursing usually begins within 24 to 36 hours. Calves nurse every 15 to 20 minutes, 24 hours a day, until the calf is about two years old. Fish are introduced into their diet in four to six months.

"I am proud to be a part of such a successful conservation initiative," said Mike Muraco, director of Animal Care at The Mirage. "To be able to care for these magnificent animals is the best job in the world."

The purpose and intent of The Mirage dolphin facility is to provide a healthy and nurturing environment for dolphins and to increase public awareness of the commitment to protect and conserve marine mammals and their environments. In addition, the Dolphin Habitat offers lectures, workshops and special events on-site.