PHOTO: Sea World's Takara, foreground, gave birth to the last killer whale to be born in captivity at SeaWorld. (photo courtesy of SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment)
The last killer whale calf born in captivity at SeaWorld was birthed on Wednesday afternoon at SeaWorld San Antonio, the company announced.
Takara, the matriarch of the orca pod, gave birth to the calf at 2:33 p.m. CST. SeaWorld said a team of veterinarians and animal care specialists witnessed the historic birth and are continuing to monitor Takara and her new baby 24-hours-a-day to help ensure a successful start.
“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,” Chris Bellows, Vice President of Zoological Operations for SeaWorld, said in a statement.
“Takara is a great mom and immediately began bonding with and caring for her new baby. Everyday she inspires SeaWorld’s guests to learn more about and do more to protect animals in the wild. She is a true ambassador.”
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 at its parks—orcas live a lengthy life and Takara is 25, for example—but the theatrical shows and tricks are over. The amusement park giant announced last year it will end its orca breeding program and stop the shows after pressure from animal rights advocates and public perception following the release of the film ‘Blackfish.’
READ MORE: SeaWorld Announces End Of Orca Breeding Program
While some have called for the killer whales to be released back into the wild, it would be difficult for them to adjust. SeaWorld will continue to care for the orcas and research them, minus the shows.
Takara was already pregnant as a result of natural breeding when the announcement to end orca breeding was made in March of 2016.
“Although this is the last killer whale birth at a SeaWorld park, our work to understand and protect this species will continue for decades to come,” said Dr. Hendrik Nollens, Vice President of Veterinary Services for SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment.
“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. We are very pleased that this birth will be able to continue to add to this body of knowledge for this iconic species.”