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Vancouver's newest baby beluga dubbed 'surprise gift'

Vancouver's newest baby beluga has been named after the Inuktitut word Nalautsaagaq, meaning "surprise gift"-but you can call her Nala for short, thanks to everyone who voted in a national contest to choose the calf's moniker.

The beluga baby was born on June 7 to three-time mom Aurora at the Vancouver Aquarium. Staff decided to name her by popular vote, and asked visitors to submit suggestions from the Inuit language of Inuktitut. Over three thousand names were submitted from across the country.

A panel of judges whittled the choices down to five, which were sent to Aquarium members for a final vote. Other names on the short list included Sila, Kuvi, Nalli and Uumamarik.

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The winning name was submitted by Dave and Katie Joyce and their eight-year-old son Devin, who live in Burnaby. As winners of the contest, the family gets to visit the beluga habitat where they can interact with the entire beluga family. They will also receive an annual family membership, and a $200 to the Vancouver Aquarium gift shop. Ms. Joyce said "we chose the name because Nala is a surprise gift for everyone who visits the Vancouver Aquarium to be able to see and learn about these amazing animals."

Aurora, Nala's 21-year-old mother, was pregnant for fifteen months. After a day of labour, the 70 kilogram, 1.5 meter calf was born without complications. This is the Aquarium's second calf in the last two years: Nala's sister, Qila, gave birth to a calf named Tiqa on June 10, 2008.

Tiqa was also named in a vote. Her name is an acronym for Tuesday (the day she was born), Imaq (the father), Qila, Aurora.

Baby Nala, now six months old, is still nursing from her mother, and is healthy.

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