The Georgia Aquarium's 20-year-old beluga whale, Whisper, gave birth May 17 to a calf.
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The Georgia Aquarium's 20-year-old beluga whale, Whisper, gave birth May 17 to a calf.

A 20-year-old whale named Whisper gave birth to a calf May 17 at the Georgia Aquarium, officials said Monday.

Whisper had a long labor and is currently being observed, along with her newborn, by the aquarium's doctors.

“Our animal health team is continuing to monitor Whisper and her calf," Vice President of Animal and Environmental Health at Georgia Aquarium Dr. Tonya Clauss said in a statement. "The coming weeks are important for the calf’s development and there are milestones to meet so we’re giving mom and calf all the support and time they need.”

The aquarium has four other beluga whales: Qinu, Maple, Nunavik and Imaq. 

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The aquarium has been criticized in the past by several animal rights organizations for their beluga whale program. In 2016, the nonprofit In Defense of Animals ranked the aquarium's dolphin and whale tanks as the fourth worst in North America. 

Six beluga whales have previously died under the aquarium's care, the most recent death occurring in 2015.

18 million people have visited the aquarium since it opened in 2005. It boasts the world's largest indoor aquatic habitat in the world with 8.3 million gallons of water. At its opening, the Guinness Book of World Records certified it had more aquatic life than any other aquarium.