Apr 19, 2017 9:27 PM
The Associated Press
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 decided to stop breeding orcas following animal rights protests and declining ticket sales.
The Orlando-based company said the orca — the last in a generation of whales bred in confinement — was born Wednesday afternoon. SeaWorld did not immediately name the calf because the park's veterinarians had not yet determined whether it was male or female.
The mother, 25-year-old Takara, was already pregnant when SeaWorld announced in March 2016 that it had stopped breeding its orcas. The gestation period for orcas is about 18 months.
Preparing late last month for the event, SeaWorld's chief zoological officer, Chris Dold, told The Associated Press he expected the birth to be bittersweet, because it would be the last such event at any of the parks. But just hours after the calf was born about 3:30 p.m. EDT Wednesday, Dold said, SeaWorld staff only felt like celebrating. SeaWorld said mother and calf both appear healthy.
"These are extraordinary moments," he said, speaking by phone while traveling to the U.S. from Abu Dhabi, where SeaWorld is developing its first new park without orcas. "It's a tempered celebration only because we're focused on the health of these guys."
SeaWorld decided to stop breeding orcas, and phase out its world-famous killer whale performances by 2019, after public opinion turned against keeping orcas, dolphins and other animals in captivity for entertainment. The backlash intensified after the 2013 release of "Blackfish," a documentary critical of SeaWorld's orca care. It focused on the orca Tilikum, which killed trainer Dawn Brancheau in Orlando in 2010, dragging her into the pool before shocked visitors after a "Dine with Shamu" show.
Tilkum, which sired 14 calves over nearly 25 years in Orlando, died of bacterial pneumonia in January.
The newborn calf was sired by Kyuquot (pronounced ky YOO kit) at the San Antonio park by natural means. It brings SeaWorld's orca population in the U.S. to 23. All the orcas are expected to remain on display and available for researchers for years to come in Orlando, San Diego and San Antonio.
SeaWorld has said it plans to introduce new "natural orca encounters" in place of theatrical shows. This summer, the San Diego park will unveil a new, educational attraction in a revamped pool, and new orca attractions eventually will follow in San Antonio and Orlando.
The calf will be visible to visitors either in the orca stadium pool at the San Antonio park or in two adjacent pools. Observations about the calf and Takara by SeaWorld trainers will be provided from the moment of birth to researchers trying to fill gaps in their data about wild killer whales.
Dold said veterinarians at the San Antonio park told him the calf was born normally — tail first — after about an hour and a half of smooth labor. Both orcas were swimming calmly, including taking breaths at the water's surface, and trainers would be watching for the calf to begin nursing.
"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. "Our expectation is that all of this will go smoothly, but we take none of that for granted."
Birth control and "social management" will prevent future orca pregnancies, said spokeswoman Suzanne Pelisson Beasley. SeaWorld has not collected a wild orca in nearly 40 years, and most of its orcas were born in captivity.
Researchers have said they worry that SeaWorld's decision to stop breeding orcas will slowly reduce their ability to study orca health, growth and behavior, limiting them in coming years to collecting data from a small pod of aging whales.
Heather Hill, a St. Mary's University comparative psychologist who plans to monitor the sleeping habits of Takara and the calf over the coming year, said it was frustrating to see research opportunities at SeaWorld undermined by public opinion amid federal cuts to science funding.
"This will be one of the first times we'll be able to see not just a mother with a newborn calf but also a newborn calf with siblings," Hill said.
This is Takara's fifth calf. 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. SeaWorld has no current plans to separate Takara and the newborn in the future, or to move any of its other orcas, Dold said.
In March, Dold said SeaWorld remains committed to orca research and conservation, calling the last orca birth in captivity "a solemn reminder of how things can change and how things can be lost."
11 hours 49 minutes agoAn 80-year-old woman went out to close her chickens up and pick weeds form her garden, when a bobcat viciously attacked her. (More)
Jun 25, 2017 8:19 PMA bystander looked up to see a young girl dangling about 25 feet off the ground from a slow-moving gondola ride. (More)
11 hours 4 minutes agoA New Hampshire man is being indicted with the second-degree murder and manslaughter of his 3-year-old daughter early last year. (More)
9 hours 58 minutes agoA neighbor who witnessed the massive fire destroy Stenton Trust Mill said arson was inevitable due to the increased activity inside the abandoned building....
17 hours 52 minutes agoMassachusetts man drives a personal watercraft up and inside boat full of children on Great Pond. (More)
Jun 25, 2017 11:37 AMIn an effort to crack down on impaired driving, the New Hampshire State Police are setting up a sobriety checkpoint in Nashua. (More)
Jun 24, 2017 9:44 AMThe highest tide of the month flooded parts of Hampton overnight. (More)
Jun 25, 2017 10:40 AMOfficials say a NH man who crashed his boat onto rocks on the shore of Lake Winnipesaukee has been charged with operating under the...
Jun 24, 2017 8:51 AMAfter sifting through numerous tips, police believe they have a suspect in the assault of a woman outside of Planet Fitness on June 12....
Jun 23, 2017 11:29 AM38 teenagers were arrested on alcohol-related charges after police broke up a gathering in Georges Mills Thursday night. (More)
Jun 23, 2017 12:14 PMAn inmate who escaped from a transport vehicle Thursday was captured in Concord Friday morning. (More)
Jun 22, 2017 2:40 PMA man was sentenced to 10 to 20 years in prison for physically overpowering and raping a 14-year-old girl in an unused hallway of...
Jun 22, 2017 12:34 PMAn elderly woman confused the brakes in the car with the gas, launching her into Lake Winnipesaukee. (More)
Jun 21, 2017 8:49 AMMost Granite Staters have encountered a tick at least once in their lifetime, but a meat allergy caused by a bite from a southeastern...
Jun 22, 2017 9:37 AMWhile Manchester PD arrests 5 people for prostitution, undercover detective offered heroin and discovers man with crystal methamphetamine. (More)
Jun 22, 2017 6:20 PMThe United States Marshal's office is searching for an escaped inmate who may be in the area of Belknap or Merrimack counties. (More)
Jun 21, 2017 6:19 PMBefore planning a day trip to a New Hampshire beach or pond, make sure to check that the water is not contaminated with fecal...
Jun 22, 2017 9:47 AMThe Department of Health and Human Services report a syphilis outbreak in the state, which is consistent with the national trend. (More)
Jun 21, 2017 3:57 PMDuring an interview, an abused child told detectives the man 'always hurts me almost every time' the two are together. (More)
Jun 21, 2017 3:42 PMWho is Christina Fay? What we know about her before she was arrested for housing 84 Great Danes in deplorable conditions at her Wolfeboro...
Jun 21, 2017 11:51 AMA potential funnel cloud was caught on camera. (More)
Jun 21, 2017 12:22 PMOn Tuesday afternoon police arrested a man for allegedly abusing a young boy he was watching. (More)
Jun 20, 2017 2:06 PM15,351 students at the University of New Hampshire can sleep peacefully knowing their campus has been ranked as the safest school in the Uunited...
Jun 20, 2017 3:45 PMPolice are looking to speak with a Somersworth woman after finding a car involved in a hit-and-run that killed a 71-year-old woman. (More)
Jun 20, 2017 11:39 AMTwo young children were present when police searched a Massachusetts apartment Monday night and arrested a man on multiple drug distribution charges. (More)
Jun 20, 2017 2:28 PMNew Hampshire State Police are hoping that video surfaced out of California may help lead to clues to solve the case of a serial...
Jun 19, 2017 1:13 PMA New Hampshire school district is mourning the loss of their superintendent after he died from a sudden illness. (More)
Jun 19, 2017 8:11 AMWhile investigating suspected money laundering, FBI recorded the man claiming he won money while in Colorado hunting Bigfoot. (More)
Jun 19, 2017 12:57 PMMany parents in New Hampshire probably believe their baby is the cutest in the state, but one competition is looking to say otherwise. (More)
Jun 19, 2017 4:30 PMPolice released the identity of a Massachusetts man who was killed after being involved in a three vehicle crash along Route 3A. (More)
Jun 18, 2017 2:32 PMThose looking to adopt the Great Danes rescued at a suspected New Hampshire puppy mill may have to wait up to a year to...
Jun 18, 2017 8:42 PMThunderstorms are likely to be strong Monday afternoon and evening. (More)
Jun 19, 2017 12:25 PMA Severe Thunderstorm Watch has been issued for all of New Hampshire until 8 p.m. Monday. (More)
Jun 18, 2017 10:23 AMThe Somersworth Police Department are searching for the suspected driver who hit and killed a pedestrian. (More)
Jun 18, 2017 12:11 PMThree New Hampshire teenagers have been charged with assaulting a popular street performer in Boston who plays music while dressed as a bear. (More)
Jun 18, 2017 10:46 AMOfficers arrested three men at a New Hampshire homeless shelter after they resisted arrest by trying to take an officer's gun and hitting officers,...
Jun 18, 2017 11:17 AMDonations to The Humane Society of the United States helped ease the rescue of 84 Great Danes from a New Hampshire puppy mill. (More)
Jun 16, 2017 5:21 PMA Barnstead man is speaking out after his 2-year-old pool is unusable due to what he claims is an installation error. However, weather may...
Jun 16, 2017 2:34 PMAfter a stabbing victim arrived at Elliot Hospital, police and SWAT surrounded a Manchester house believing more victims could be within. (More)
Jun 16, 2017 2:07 PMAutopsy for suspect of a high speed chase through multiple states revealed the officer-involved shooting to be a homicide. (More)
Jun 15, 2017 3:40 PMTimothy Dearborn arraigned of several charges in Merrimack County Superior Court after allegedly shooting a gun Thursday night in downtown Concord. (More)
Jun 15, 2017 2:06 PMPolice in Mass. are investigating the death of a dog that was left in a car in a country club parking lot on a...
Jun 16, 2017 7:42 AMAn hour-long police chase that began in Massachusetts has ended in a crash in New Hampshire with the suspect dead. (More)
Jun 14, 2017 3:18 PMThe Strafford County Drug Task Force has arrested 13 people on drug charges over the past three months as a result of Operation Granite...
Jun 15, 2017 11:57 AMWitnesses told police Timothy Dearborn, 33, of Concord, showed them a 9mm pistol before walking to the Low Avenue area where he then fired...
Jun 15, 2017 2:50 PMPolice arrested two New York brothers who allegedly used counterfeit $100 bills in the city. (More)
Jun 14, 2017 4:02 PMA Portsmouth man shot and killed by officers died from multiple gunshot wounds, the Chief Medical Examiner said. (More)
Jun 14, 2017 2:00 PMA family living in a Nashua apartment complex are the apparent target of racist graffiti left in the laundry room. (More)
Jun 14, 2017 3:39 PMA NH judge ruled that the Concord man suspected of stabbing a woman to death in May would be held without bail after his...