SeaWorld announced the birth of the newest member of the SeaWorld family of killer whales. Takara, the 25-year-old matriarch of the orca pod that born at SeaWorld San Diego, gave birth to the calf at SeaWorld San Antonio. A team of veterinarians and animal care specialists witnessed the historic birth and are continuing to monitor Takara and her new baby 24-hours-a-day to help ensure a successful start.
Guests at SeaWorld San Antonio will have the opportunity to visit and observe Takara and her calf in the near future during select times. Although this will be the last opportunity for SeaWorld guests to see a baby killer whale up close as it grows and matures, SeaWorld will continue to care for the orcas at its parks for decades to come.
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. "Nothing can prepare you for that moment when mom helps the calf get to the surface for its first breath. The moment the calf is born, Takara is 100% focused on the care and well-being of that baby. She knows exactly what to do. It is amazing," said Sigman.
"Takara will continuously swim with her calf as it begins to nurse and learn," added Sigman. Takara has had four other calves, which now range in age from 3 to 15 years. Takara was already pregnant as a result of natural breeding when the announcement to end orca breeding was made in March 2016.
"Although this is the last killer whale birth at a SeaWorld park, our work to understand and protect this species will continue for decades to come," said Dr. Hendrik Nollens, Vice President of Veterinary Services for SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment. "Takara and her calf are an important part of not only educating the visitors who see them at the parks, but also ongoing research that helps marine biologists understand how to better care for and protect orcas in the wild. We are very pleased that this birth will be able to continue to add to this body of knowledge for this iconic species."
The birth of Takara's calf is also the last chance for researchers to study orca development in ways that cannot be done in the wild, helping to benefit wild whales as well as those in SeaWorld's care. 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. The pair will provide data and samples to studies focused on killer whale growth and metabolism. One looks at toxin transfer in milk when babies nurse and another will help evaluate body shape changes to understand nutritional conditions for free-ranging killer whales. The calf, her mom, and other whales will also be monitored by a research team from St. Mary's University in San Antonio to better understand the social impact of calves and their social development within a killer whale pod.
More than 22 million guests a year visit SeaWorld and support its mission to deliver experiences that matter and inspire protection of the wild world. SeaWorld has committed $50 million over the next five years to be the world's leading marine animal rescue organization, advocating for wild animals and protecting our oceans. This includes a commitment of $10 million in matching funds dedicated to killer whale research and the creation of a multi-million dollar partnership focused on ocean health, the leading concern for all killer whales and marine mammals.