Published: Fri, April 21, 2017
Global Media | By Meredith Barber

Baby orca! Last killer whale born at SeaWorld

Baby orca! Last killer whale born at SeaWorld

Researchers are now able to study how a baby orca reacts around siblings because two of Takara's other calves are also housed at the San Antonio theme park.

Takara gave birth Wednesday afternoon at the park.

At 3:33 p.m. ET on Wednesday, SeaWorld welcomed its last orca born in captivity.

SeaWorld on Wednesday announced the birth of the last killer whale that will ever be born at the theme park, just a little over a year after it announced plans to stop breeding orcas there amid falling ticket sales and a wave of animal rights protests.

The company says Takara got pregnant naturally before SeaWorld announced it would discontinue captive breeding, making this generation of orcas its last.

The last baby orca calf can be viewed by SeaWorld guests as park staffers share information and observations about the whale. "The birth of Takara's calf is also the last chance for researchers to study orca development in ways that can not be done in the wild, helping to benefit wild whales as well as those in SeaWorld's care", the company said in a statement issued on April. 19. The gestation period for killer whales is between 17 and 18 months.

Despite the criticism over their breeding programme, SeaWorld's chief zoological officer, Chris Dold, described the birth was a celebration because any whale birth is "extraordinary". It called on SeaWorld to "retire" Takara and her calf "to a seaside sanctuary, where they may someday be reunited with Takara's mother, other children, and grandchildren".

The last baby orca born in captivity at SeaWorld will reportedly be allowed to remain with its mother.

Spokeswoman Suzanne Pelisson Beasley said birth control and "social management" would prevent future orca breeding.

Heather Hill, a St. Mary's University comparative psychologist who plans to monitor the sleeping habits of Takara and the calf over the coming year, said it was frustrating to see research opportunities at SeaWorld undermined by public opinion amid federal cuts to science funding. Two of her other offspring remain at the San Antonio park, while one lives at SeaWorld Orlando and another has been loaned to a park in Tenerife, Spain.

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