APNewsBreak: Baby orca! Last killer whale born at SeaWorld

Last killer whale born at SeaWorld

SeaWorld

"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 Wednesday.

The company said it welcomed its newest aqua-animal when Takara, the 25-year-old matriarch of the SeaWorld San Antonio killer whale pod, gave birth to the calf Wednesday afternoon.

Takara was already pregnant when the company said past year that it was suspending its captive breeding program and phasing out killer whale shows at its three parks in Orlando, Florida, San Diego, California and San Antonio. It also said the calf and other orcas couldn't be released into the wild because they were born and raised in captivity and would likely not survive.

SeaWorld's killer whale collection has increasingly become a source of controversy for the company.

The calf was born after an 18-month gestation and is estimated to weigh between 300 and 350 pounds (136 and 159 kg) and measure between 6 and 7 feet (1.8 to 2.1 meters), SeaWorld said.

SeaWorld's chief zoological officer, Chris Dold, described the birth as one of those "extraordinary moments".

As for how long fans have to see this calf grow up, SeaWorld says it has several killer whales in their 30s and one around the age of 50.

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.

The change came after the 2013 documentary "Blackfish" highlighted SeaWorld's treatment of its orcas. It focused on the orca Tilikum, which killed trainer Dawn Brancheau in Orlando in 2010, dragging her into the pool before shocked visitors after a "Dine with Shamu" show.

About SeaWorld Parks & EntertainmentSeaWorld Parks & Entertainment? is a leading theme park and entertainment company providing experiences that matter and inspiring guests to protect animals and the wild wonders of our world.

The last baby orca born in captivity at SeaWorld will reportedly be allowed to remain with its mother. SeaWorld has not collected a wild orca in almost 40 years, and most of its orcas were born in captivity.

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.

PETA has called for Takara and her newborn to be sent to a seaside sanctuary.

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