SeaWorld San Antonio welcomed their last orca calf on April 19. As SeaWorld has announced the end of their orca breeding program in 2016, the birth of the calf brings the last opportunity for guests of SeaWorld to see a baby orca up-close, and to observe its growth.
SeaWorld's latest addition to their family of over two dozen orcas was born to 25-year-old Takara, who was born at SeaWorld herself, and has birthed four calves at SeaWorld before. Both mother and calf are being closely monitored by animal care specialists and veterinarians at SeaWorld.
SeaWorld's announcement about the birth of Takara's calf is bittersweet as the birth also marks the beginning of the end of the last generation of orcas to be bred and born in captivity at the park.
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. It is only then that they will be able to tell the gender of the calf as it begins to nurse and learn about its environment.
The birth of Takara's calf was made possible despite SeaWorld's decision to stop orca breeding in captivity, as she was already pregnant through natural breeding when the announcement was made in March 2016.
"Takara and her calf are an important part of not only educating the visitors who see them at the parks, but also ongoing research that helps marine biologists understand how to better care for and protect orcas in the wild," said Dr. Hendrik Nollens, Vice President of Veterinary Services for SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, in the announcement.
— SeaWorld (@SeaWorld) April 20, 2017
A Last Chance After The Struggle
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.
Apart from marking the guests' last opportunity to observe the growth of SeaWorld's last orca calf's growth, this momentous birth also marks the last chance for researchers and marine biologists to study orcas in a controlled environment, something that cannot be done in the wild.