New baby killer whale is the last one to be born at SeaWorld

Posted at 7:29 AM, Apr 20, 2017

A killer whale calf was born Wednesday at SeaWorld San Antonio in Texas, marking the last one birthed in captivity at the company’s marine parks.

SeaWorld announced last year that it would end its killer whale breeding program.

Takara, the mother of the newborn calf, already had been pregnant through natural breeding when SeaWorld made that announcement in March 2016, the company said. The gestation period for killer whales is between 17 and 18 months.

SeaWorld San Antonio plans to let visitors observe Takara, the 25-year-old killer whale, and her calf in the near future. The gender of the newborn calf is not yet known.

“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,” said Julie Sigman, an assistant curator at SeaWorld San Antonio, in a statement.

Takara began bonding and caring for her new baby immediately, according to the park. She previously gave birth to four other calves — two of them are at SeaWorld San Antonio.

Last year, SeaWorld announced it would phase out killer whale shows. The park had come under fire for its treatment of killer whales since the 2013 CNN documentary “Blackfish.” That film profiled one of its whales, Tilikum, who has been involved in the deaths of three people, including SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau in 2010.

Recently, SeaWorld had seen attendance at the parks and its stock struggle.

“The birth of Takara’s calf is also the last chance for researchers to study orca development in ways that cannot 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.

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