PHOTO: Sea World's Takara is with orca at the San Antonio park. (Photo courtesy of SeaWorld)
Boy orca meets girl orca and about 18 months (and some luck) later, you have a baby orca.
It seems that 25-year old Takara, the matriarch of SeaWorld San Antonio’s orca pod, and suspected father Kyuquot (this baby is the result of natural breeding) had something else in mind when the announcement was made last March that the current generation of orcas would be the last at SeaWorld. So in about a month’s time when Takara gives birth, three will be the magic number for the last time at SeaWorld San Antonio.
The orca pod at SeaWorld is already part of critical research being carried out to better help researchers and conservationists learn how to best save this species. Now, this exciting news will not only give visitors the opportunity to see a baby killer whale grow into adulthood but just as importantly will provide conservationists with the last opportunity to study orca development in ways that would not be possible in the wild.
The calf, along with Takara and SeaWorld San Antonio’s other killer whales, will be studied by a research team from St. Mary’s University in San Antonio. Data gleaned from studying Takara and her calf will be added to an already substantial catalog that scientists are using in their study of a Southern Resident killer whale group that lives off the coast of Washington. This particular population is threatened by the trifecta of human development, overfishing and pollution and samples gleaned from Takara and her calf will contribute to studies on killer whale growth and metabolism. One study examines the transfer of toxins from mother to calf through breastmilk, while the second assesses changes in body shape to determine the nutritional condition of killer whales in the wild.
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Takara, who was born at SeaWorld San Diego and is identifiable by a birthmark in the area just below her mouth, is an experienced mother and has given birth to four other calves: Trua, 11, currently at SeaWorld Orlando; Kohana, 15, who resides at Loro Parque; and Sakari, 7, and Kamea, 3, who both live at SeaWorld San Antonio.
Over the next five years, SeaWorld has committed $50 million to become the world’s leading marine animal rescue organization. As part of this effort, SeaWorld will be expanding its animal care centers and rescue ventures, while also working to support marine stranding networks across the country and the world. An additional $10 million is being invested in the study and protection of wild killer whales, with a focus on the Southern Resident killer whale population.
On-site, SeaWorld is replacing theatrical shows with more natural encounters. To facilitate this, SeaWorld is revamping its orca habitats with more natural looking environs that will facilitate natural behaviors from the killer whales. Gone, too, is the captive breeding program for orcas.