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."
16 hours 52 minutes agoPolice arrested four people found loitering behind a town office building, including one person that they used a taser on. (More)
15 hours 7 minutes agoA tree removal company's attempt to uproot a mysterious object with steel legs that is lodged on a Rhode Island beach has been postponed....
15 hours 40 minutes agoA Hopkinton man has been arrested after being caught masturbating near a popular swimming spot, police said. (More)
15 hours 57 minutes agoThe Attorney General's Office released the identities of two people found dead inside a Haverhill residence. (More)
22 hours 6 minutes agoDiners got a pleasant surprise over the weekend when actor Matt Damon stopped into The Oar House on Saturday to eat lunch with his...
16 hours 28 minutes agoThe New Hampshire Supreme Court has ruled that letters written by a man who kidnapped and repeatedly raped a 14-year-old girl can be made...
22 hours 51 minutes agoA single-car accident on I-293 left a 31-year-old woman dead from her injuries Monday night in Manchester. (More)
21 hours 10 minutes agoA tree removal company will try to uproot a mysterious object with steel legs that is lodged on a Rhode Island beach. (More)
Aug 14, 2017 3:58 PMAuthorities in Salem took one man into custody after witnesses say he exposed his genitals while watching children play at the town park on...
Aug 14, 2017 3:10 PM
Aug 14, 2017 4:17 PMThe New Hampshire woman found unconscious behind the wheel of a car with her child in the back seat is being held on $5,000...
Aug 14, 2017 1:17 PMMiddlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan believes authorities recovered the body of a missing 16-year-old girl in the Merrimack River. (More)
Aug 14, 2017 1:04 PMThe Dover Police Department and Medical Examiner's office investigating the death of a 29-year-old woman, who likely died of a drug overdose. (More)
Aug 14, 2017 9:28 AMA clerk at a Manchester gas station reported a woman had been parked at the station's pumps for an hour. Police found a sleeping...
Aug 14, 2017 10:30 AMFire crews from several area towns used water and foam to extinguish a blaze at a home in a remote section of town Monday...
Aug 13, 2017 10:01 AMTwenty years ago, an angry loner with a gun murdered four people, two of them state troopers. (More)
Aug 9, 2017 4:33 PMIn a state that prides itself on the motto 'Live Free or Die,' New Hampshire has had a reputation for being a good place...
Aug 14, 2017 8:18 AMAttny. Gen. Sessions says the president would "do what is correct" in connection with weekend violence in Virginia. (More)
Aug 13, 2017 11:49 AMThe New Hampshire State Police Marine Patrol are investigating an untimely death. (More)
Aug 13, 2017 10:49 AMThe Pelham Police Department responded to two crashes this weekend that both ended with DUI charges. (More)
Aug 11, 2017 1:45 PMThe NHDES released a report Friday about contamination advisories for five state beaches and four lakes due to elevated bacteria levels. (More)
Aug 12, 2017 10:19 AMA hospital emergency department that was evacuated because of an unknown odor is expected to re-open, though authorities still haven't determined the cause. (More)
Aug 11, 2017 5:46 PMThe New Hampshire Department of Corrections is seeking the public's assistance in identifying a woman believed to have brought drugs into a men's prison....
Aug 11, 2017 4:45 PMRhode Island beachgoers are puzzled and concerned about a mysterious object lodged about 10 feet underwater just off Westerly's East Beach. (More)
Aug 10, 2017 2:47 PMOfficials are looking for a boat that struck a tube carrying two teenagers on Tuesday, sending one of the teens to the hospital. (More)
Aug 11, 2017 2:02 PMSeventeen staff members at Exeter Hospital fell sick Friday morning and had to be treated for symptoms of dizziness, nausea and vomiting. (More)
Aug 10, 2017 5:50 PMAerosmith's Steven Tyler visited the Granite State today and posed for pictures in a local business at Mount Sunapee Resort. (More)
Aug 11, 2017 9:40 AMPolice arrested over a dozen people on drug-related charges this week. (More)
Aug 11, 2017 4:19 PMHazmat crews are still working to determine the source of an odor that made 19 staff members ill and forced evacuations in parts of...
Aug 11, 2017 12:01 PMExeter Hospital has been evacuated and police and emergency crews, including several ambulances, are on scene. (More)
Aug 10, 2017 2:07 PMUnpaid lunch balances is leaving one school district thousands of dollars in debt, but a proposed policy could possibly lead to lunch shaming. (More)
Aug 10, 2017 8:19 AMOrganizers of the Rochester Fair are looking for ways to rejuvenate the event after shutting it down this year, citing mounting debt and lower...
Aug 10, 2017 7:45 PMAfter an investigation that began last week, an search warrant was executed and two suspects were arrested on felony drug charges for allegedly selling...
Aug 10, 2017 2:08 PMA day after the Manchester Sam's Club announces its upcoming closing, over 100 people lined up outside the store waiting for it to open...
Aug 10, 2017 1:45 PMA body found in Hampton Harbor on July 29 has been identified as a man from Florida. (More)
Aug 10, 2017 7:55 AMThousands of runners and spectators are expected for the race in Manchester Thursday evening. (More)
Aug 10, 2017 7:15 AMNorth Korea's reported plan is extremely specific, suggesting it is actually plotting a launch. (More)
Aug 9, 2017 12:18 PMNeedles popping up by public beaches has the North Hampton police chief warning the public. (More)
Aug 9, 2017 10:53 AMSam's Club in Manchester will no longer be in operation after August 18th, 2017. Other NH stores not affected. (More)
Aug 9, 2017 12:21 PMFormer N.H. Sen. Gordon Humphrey has written a letter to the state's congressional delegation, calling Trump's "fire and fury" threat to North Korea "crazy."...
Aug 9, 2017 6:14 PMThree charges against a Rye man accused of providing a teen girl with alcohol before sexual assaulting her last month were dropped Wednesday. (More)
Aug 8, 2017 1:50 PM
Aug 9, 2017 6:59 AMIan McCarthy had been sought for shooting and killing a Missouri police officer. He was also wanted in NH for skipping a court sentencing....
Aug 8, 2017 2:13 PMIf you are sick of those constant pop-up advertisements money or gift cards, then this article can provide relief for those virus-filled pages. (More)
Aug 8, 2017 6:08 PMDetails surrounding the double murders in Farmington were revealed Tuesday afternoon during a bail hearing. (More)
Aug 8, 2017 1:55 PMThousands of people attended the 4-day long Cheshire Fair, but some vendors have turned them from coming back. (More)
Aug 7, 2017 4:50 PMSome of your favorite cocktails served in Copper mugs may be giving you more than a hangover. (More)
Aug 8, 2017 5:58 PMThe state of New Hampshire is filling a lawsuit against the maker of OxyContin after a two-year investigation revealing deceptive marketing practices. (More)
Aug 8, 2017 1:50 PMThree people had to be transported to the hospital after a cargo van rear-ended another vehicle and pushed it into oncoming traffic Tuesday morning....