The last killer whale born at a SeaWorld theme park is expected to arrive any day now.
Takara, the matriarch of the SeaWorld San Antonio orca pod, is pregnant and due in just over a month. This is the 25-year-old killer whale’s fifth calf. Her 11-year-old daughter, Trua, lives at SeaWorld Orlando.
Takara was already pregnant when SeaWorld Entertainment announced last March that this would be the last generation of orcas at SeaWorld. Her 17- to 18-month gestation period is expected to end soon, according to the SeaWorld Blog.
The pregnancy occurred through natural breeding and the suspected dad is Kyuquot. While SeaWorld visitors will have the opportunity to see killer whales at SeaWorld for years to come, this will be the last chance to see a baby killer whale grow and mature.
Whales like Takara already participate in research to help scientists and conservationists better understand the species and the newest calf opens the door for additional groundbreaking research. The birth of Takara’s calf is the last chance for researchers to study orca development in ways that cannot be done in the wild, helping to conserve this amazing species, according to the blog.
Information learned from Takara and her calf will add to SeaWorld’s database about killer whales, helping scientists studying the endangered Southern Resident killer whale population off the coast of Washington, where they are threatened by pollution, overfishing, and human development. Data and samples from the pair will contribute to studies focused on killer whale growth and metabolism, toxin transfer in milk when babies nurse from moms and another evaluating changes in body shape to evaluate nutritional condition for free-ranging killer whales.
The calf and her mom will also be monitored by a research team from St. Mary’s University in San Antonio to better understand the impact of calves and their social development on the killer whale group.
SeaWorld is investing $10 million to study and protect endangered killer whales in the wild, with a particular focus on the Southern Resident killer whale.