Published: Mon, May 01, 2017
Culture | By Antonia Gonzales

SeaWorld: Last baby orca born in captivity at Texas park

SeaWorld: Last baby orca born in captivity at Texas park

SeaWorld San Antonio's orca Takara swims with her new calf - the last to be born at a SeaWorld park - in San Antonio, Texas, United States in this April 19, 2017 handout photo.

SeaWorld Entertainment has welcomed what's expected to be the last killer whale born at its theme parks.

Takara is said to be completely immersed in taking care of her calf, and experts at SeaWorld are on stand-by for when she is ready to introduce her calf to them.

SeaWorld's vice-president of veterinary services, Dr Hendrik Nollens said it would be the last chance for researchers to study orca development in ways that can not be done in the wild. It was 25-year-old Takara's fifth birth.

SeaWorld has said it plans to introduce new "natural orca encounters" in place of theatrical shows.

The company said a year ago that it was not able to release its killer whales into the wild, as those born and raised in captivity "will likely die" if set free.

SeaWorld had a rough couple of years before this birth, as they have struggled with negative publicity since the documentary "Blackfish", which depicted the story of the life of orcas in captivity, and showcased the story of the death of one of SeaWorld's orca trainers by one of their orcas, Tilikum, in 2010. SeaWorld said mother and calf both appear healthy.

The Orlando-based company said the orca - the last in a generation of whales bred in confinement - was born on Wednesday afternoon.

"Mom generally will rest but she can't rest too much. mom's not holding onto the calf, but it's riding in her slipstream, and that's how it gets around", Dold said. Takara was already pregnant at that time.

Animal rights group People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) said SeaWorld should move Takara and her calf from their tank to an "ocean sanctuary", an area of sea enclosed by nets.

This will be the last time SeaWorld guests see a baby killer whale up close as it grows and matures. SeaWorld will continue to care for the orcas and research them, minus the shows. In January, two notable orcas died.

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