"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.
The last killer whale to be born in captivity has arrived at a SeaWorld park.
At 3:33 p.m. ET on Wednesday, SeaWorld welcomed its last orca born in captivity.
The last baby killer whale to be born at a SeaWorld theme park has made its debut.
The company said past year that it couldn't release its orcas into the wild because most were born and raised in captivity and "will likely die" if set free.
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Last year, SeaWorld announced it would phase out killer whale shows.
In the meantime, visitors will be able to see the new calf at the San Antonio park's orca stadium pool, or in two adjacent pools - where it will be observed by trainers reporting to researchers investigating the species.
Preparing late last month for the moment, 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. SeaWorld said Takara is a great mom and is already bonding with her new baby. The park had come under fire for its treatment of killer whales since the 2013 CNN documentary "Blackfish". Information learned from Takara and her calf will add to SeaWorld's extensive database about killer whales and their calves, contributing to studies of the endangered Southern Resident killer whale population off the coast of Washington, where they are threatened by pollution, overfishing and human development.
"We take our lead from mom", said Julie Sigman, an assistant curator at the park, in terms of finding out its gender. SeaWorld has not collected a wild orca in almost 40 years, and most of its orcas were born in captivity. "It's a tempered celebration only because we're focused on the health of these guys".
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. He went on to say that SeaWorld would not free its orcas because the time spent in captivity meant they would likely die in open waters. If you would like to discuss another topic, look for a relevant article.