SeaWorld announced past year that it would end its killer whale breeding program.
MIAMI (AP) The last orca has been born in captivity at a SeaWorld park in San Antonio, Texas, just over a year after the theme park chose to stop breeding orcas following animal rights protests and declining ticket sales.
Takara was already pregnant when the company said past year that it was suspending its captive breeding program and phasing out killer whale shows at its three parks in Orlando, Florida, San Diego, California and San Antonio.
SeaWorld has been under fire since an orca killed a trainer in 2010 and the documentary "Blackfish" suggested the animal's treatment led to the death.
Takara was already pregnant as a result of natural breeding when the announcement to end orca breeding was made in March of 2016.
The birth of Takara's calf is also the last chance for researchers to study orca development in ways that can not be done in the wild, helping to benefit wild whales as well as those in SeaWorld's care.
The baby orca has not received a name because SeaWorld veterinarians can not yet determine if the killer whale is a male or a female.
"This is the last one, and that makes this a particularly big deal", SeaWorld Chief Zoological Officer Chris Dold said of Wednesday afternoon's birth.
"The birth of Takara's calf is also the last chance for researchers to study orca development in ways that can not be done in the wild, helping to benefit wild whales as well as those in SeaWorld's care", the company said in a statement Wednesday. It brings SeaWorld's orca population in the U.S.to 23. SeaWorld will continue to care for the orcas and research them, minus the shows.
Birth control and "social management" will prevent future orca pregnancies, said spokeswoman Suzanne Pelisson Beasley. "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". The moment the calf is born, Takara is 100% focused on the care and well-being of that baby. Two of her other offspring remain at the San Antonio park, while one lives at SeaWorld Orlando and another has been loaned to a park in Tenerife, Spain.
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