Published: Fri, April 21, 2017
World | By Paul Elliott

It's An Orca! Last Killer Whale Is Born At A SeaWorld Park

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".

The company announced in a news release that 25-year-old orca Takara gave birth to a calf at 2:33 p.m. CT Wednesday at SeaWorld San Antonio in Texas. Information learned from Takara and her calf will add to SeaWorld's extensive database about killer whales and their calves, contributing to studies of the endangered Southern Resident killer whale population off the coast of Washington, where they are threatened by pollution, overfishing and human development. So last March, SeaWorld announced it would no longer breed its killer whales.

SeaWorld - under pressure since a 2013 documentary laid out the argument that captivity was harmful to orcas both physically and emotionally - announced in late 2015 that it was ending its killer whale shows by 2019.

SeaWorld did not immediately name the calf because the park's veterinarians have not yet determined whether it is male or female.

SeaWorld's chief zoological officer, Chris Dold, told The Associated Press by phone that the birth was one of those "extraordinary moments". SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau was killed by Tilikum in 2010 after the orca dragged her into the killer whale pool and caused her to drown.

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

Birth control and "social management" will prevent future orca pregnancies, said spokeswoman Suzanne Pelisson Beasley. Everyday she inspires SeaWorld's guests to learn more about and do more to protect animals in the wild. He went on to say that SeaWorld would not free its orcas because the time spent in captivity meant they would likely die in open waters.

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. "Takara will let us know when she is ready for us to meet the calf and begin developing a trusting relationship, just like we have with Takara". One of her calves has been loaned out to a park in Spain, and another one lives at the company's Florida theme park, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

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