SeaWorld Announces Birth Of Last Baby Orca Born In Captivity

The calf was born after an 18-month gestation and is estimated to weigh between 300 and 350 pounds (136 and 159 kg) and measure between 6 and 7 feet (1.8 to 2.1 meters), SeaWorld said.

The company said a year ago it couldn't release the orcas into the wild because most were born and raised in captivity and would "likely die" if set free. SeaWorld said it had been a smooth delivery and both mother and calf appear to be healthy.

A killer whale calf has been born at SeaWorld's Texas resort - the last to be born at any of the company's parks.

The company's newest theme park will be built in Dubai and will not include orca whales. The park came under intense criticism following the 2013 documentary Blackfish, which shed a light on the conditions of orcas living in captivity. SeaWorld will continue to care for the orcas and research them, minus the 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.

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 gender of Taraka's calf hasn't been confirmed, and it has not been named yet. Both orcas were swimming calmly, including taking breaths at the water's surface, and trainers would be watching for the calf to begin nursing. According to Sigman, "We take our lead from mom".

The company said previous 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. The SeaWorld parks are phasing out its world-famous killer whale performances by 2019. Takara was already pregnant as a result of natural breeding when the announcement to end orca breeding was made in March 2016.

Tracy Reiman, executive vice president for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, said in a statement that the mother and her calf should be retired to a seaside sanctuary. But hours after Wednesday's birth, Dold said the staff felt only celebratory.