Friday, 21 September, 2018

APNewsBreak: Baby orca! Last killer whale born at SeaWorld

Melinda Barton | 21 April, 2017, 18:24

"Although this is the last killer whale birth at a SeaWorld park, our work to understand and protect this species will continue for decades to come", said Mr Nollens.

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.

SeaWorld - which has two dozen orcas at its parks in San Antonio, San Diego and Orlando, Florida - said the calf was born Wednesday afternoon to Takara, the 25-year-old matriarch of the orca pod, who was already pregnant when the company announced that it was ending orca breeding last year. Backlash over the treatment of the animals and the conditions at the park led the company to scrap its orca breeding program at its 12 parks past year when they announced that the orcas at the park would be the "last generation". It's the last in a generation of whales bred in confinement. According to an earnings report released in November, SeaWorld's revenue for the first nine months of 2016 decreased by $26.5 million from the same period in 2015.

"Takara will let us know when she is ready for us to meet the calf and at that time we should be able to determine the gender", Julie Sigman, an assistant curator at SeaWorld San Antonio, said in a statement.

SeaWorld's chief zoological officer Chris Dold said the park has no current plans to relocate any orcas. "It is fantastic", said Julie Sigman, an Assistant Curator at SeaWorld San Antonio. Both orcas were swimming calmly, including taking breaths at the water's surface, and trainers would be watching for the calf to begin nursing. "Our expectation is that all of this will go smoothly, but we take none of that for granted". SeaWorld has not collected a wild orca in almost 40 years, and most of its orcas were born in captivity.

Visitors will have the opportunity see Takara and her calf in "the near future during select times", the company said in its statement.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals called on SeaWorld to turn over the newborn to an ocean sanctuary rather than having it grow and mature at the theme park. Researchers say they will use the birth of the baby to study orca development in ways that can't be done in the wild.

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