APNewsBreak: Baby orca! Last killer whale born at SeaWorld

Pic APMIAMI

Pic APMIAMI

The last baby orca born at SeaWorld was sired by Kyuquot at the Texas theme park by natural means.

SeaWorld now has 23 orcas among its three centers in San Diego, Calif., Orlando, Fla. and San Antonio, spokesman David Koontz told NPR via email.

She was pregnant for about a year and a half, according to SeaWorld, and was already carrying the baby when the company announced last March that it would stop breeding orcas in captivity.

SeaWorld announced a year ago that it would end its killer whale breeding program.

However, the company has said it would not be able to release the creatures into the while because most were born and raised in captivity and would "likely die" if set free.

Dr. Hendrik Nollens, vice president of veterinary services for SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment said that the park's effort to understand and protect the species will last for "decades to come".

Takara was already pregnant with the calf when the company announced it would cease breeding the animals past year. The gestation period for killer whales is between 17 and 18 months.

SeaWorld San Antonio welcomed an orca calf on Wednesday April 19, 2017 afternoon, the last to be born at a SeaWorld park.

SeaWorld's chief zoological officer, Chris Dold, told The Associated Press by phone that the birth was one of those "extraordinary moments". It called on SeaWorld to "retire" Takara and her calf "to a seaside sanctuary, where they may someday be reunited with Takara's mother, other children, and grandchildren".

Researchers are now able to study how a baby orca reacts around siblings because two of Takara's other calves are also housed at the San Antonio theme park.

The film focused on an orca named Tilikum, who was involved in the deaths of three people. Most of the whales now on display were born, and have lived their entire lives, in captivity at SeaWorld.

The gender of the calf will be confirmed at a later date, once Takara appears comfortable with allowing her trainers to meet her latest arrival. It was 25-year-old Takara's fifth birth.

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