The last killer whale was born at SeaWorld San Antonio, ending an era of captive orca breeding.
The 25-year-old mother, Takara, and her calf are being watched around the clock by veterinarians, who watched her give birth at 2:33 p.m. Wednesday.
Takara was pregnant when the company announced in March 2016 it would stop its orca breeding program amid negative publicity from watchdog groups. An orca’s pregnancy lasts 18 months.
“This is an exciting and emotional day for us at SeaWorld and we are all so proud to share this new killer whale calf with the world, after a year and a half of planning, and observing and providing all the special care,” said Chris Bellows, vice president of zoological operations. “Takara is a great mom and immediately began bonding with and caring for her new baby.
This is the fifth birth for Takara. She has four other children, including Kohana, Sakari, Kamea and Trua, who lives at SeaWorld Orlando. The gender of the newest calf will be confirmed later.
“We take our lead from mom, said Julie Sigman, assistant curator at SeaWorld San Antonio. “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.”
SeaWorld is billing the birth as the last opportunity for the public is watch a killer whale grow up and for researchers to study orca development in ways that cannot be done in the wild.
Animal rights groups have criticized SeaWorld for keeping wild animals in captivity. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) called on SeaWorld to allow Takara to “give birth in a seaside sanctuary so that her calf will never have to see the inside of a concrete tank.”