Takara gave birth to her as-yet-unnamed calf on Wednesday afternoon at SeaWorld San Antonio. Protests by animal rights activists and a decline in ticket sales prompted the Florida-based company to nix its whale breeding program previous year.
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 says both mother and baby are well and that there are no plans for separating them.
SeaWorld's chief zoological officer, Chris Dold, told The Associaetd Press that calf and mother were swimming calmly after a smooth labor. "We love these killer whales".
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SeaWorld made a decision to stop breeding orcas, and phase out its world-famous killer whale performances by 2019, after public opinion turned against keeping orcas, dolphins and other animals in captivity for entertainment. All the orcas are expected to remain on display and available for researchers for years to come in Orlando, San Diego and San Antonio.
SeaWorld had to shift its entire operation after the 2013 documentary "Blackfish" shed light on the lives of orcas in captivity. 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. "Natural orca encounters" will soon be offered at the parks instead of the once highly popular killer whale shows. SeaWorld San Antonio in Texas welcomed a baby orca on April 19, and we are turning to mush over these pics of the calf swimming with its mom Takara. This summer, the San Diego park will unveil a new, educational attraction in a revamped pool, and new orca attractions eventually will follow in San Antonio and Orlando.
This will be the last time SeaWorld guests see a baby killer whale up close as it grows and matures. Veterinarian teams at each theme park will use both birth control and "social management" to prevent the 23 remaining orca whales from breeding while in captivity. It has been nearly four decades since the park has removed an orca from the wild.