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APNewsBreak: Baby orca! Last killer whale born at SeaWorld

APNewsBreak: Baby orca! Last killer whale born at SeaWorld

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.

Pressure on SeaWorld mounted after the release of the 2013 documentary "Blackfish", which depicted the captivity and public exhibition of killer whales as inherently cruel.

The company announced in a news release that 25-year-old orca Takara gave birth to a calf at 2:33 p.m. CT Wednesday at SeaWorld San Antonio in Texas.

Julie Sigman, an Assistant Curator at SeaWorld San Antonio who has been with Takara through three of her last pregnancies and births, expressed her excitement at watching the calf surface to take its first breath.

SeaWorld's vice president of veterinary services, Dr. Hendrik Nollens, it will be the last chance for researchers to study orca development in ways that can not be done in the wild. So last March, SeaWorld announced it would no longer breed its killer whales. The gestation period for killer whales is between 17 and 18 months. SeaWorld didn't immediately name the calf because the park's veterinarians have not yet determined whether it is male or female.

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"PETA is calling on SeaWorld to spare (Takara's) fifth calf a lifetime of suffering in prison by retiring both mother and child to a seaside sanctuary, where the baby may someday be reunited with Takara's mother, other children, and grandchildren", the organization said in a statement Wednesday. SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau was killed by Tilikum in 2010 after the orca dragged her into the killer whale pool and caused her to drown.

"Mom generally will rest but she can't rest too much. mom's not holding onto the calf, but it's riding in her slipstream, and that's how it gets around", Dold said. It brings SeaWorld's orca population in the U.S.to 23. SeaWorld has not collected a wild orca in almost 40 years, and most of its orcas were born in captivity.

Visitors will have the opportunity see Takara and her calf in "the near future during select times", the company said in its statement. Researchers say they will use the birth of the baby to study orca development in ways that can't be done in the wild. The gender of the newborn calf is not yet known.

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