The last orca to be born at a SeaWorld park, which popularized killer whale shows in the 1960s but faced growing opposition in recent years, has been born in Texas at SeaWorld San Antonio.
Last year, SeaWorld said "society is changing" and the company is "changing with it" as it announced plans to stop breeding orcas. Gestation for orcas lasts about 18 months.
Meanwhile, the activist group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals told NBC News that it was calling on SeaWorld to "retire" Takara and her calf "to a seaside sanctuary, where they may someday be reunited with Takara's mother, other children, and grandchildren".
"This is the last one, and that makes this a particularly big deal", SeaWorld Chief Zoological Officer Chris Dold said of Wednesday afternoon's birth.
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The baby orca has not received a name because SeaWorld veterinarians can not yet determine if the killer whale is a male or a female.
Takara began bonding and caring for her new baby immediately, according to the park. "Mom generally will rest but she can't rest too much". 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. The backlash intensified after the 2013 release of "Blackfish", a documentary critical of SeaWorld's orca care.
Tell us, HollywoodLifers - are you happy this is the last baby orca born in captivity at SeaWorld?
Takara, born at SeaWorld San Diego, has had four other calves, ranging in age from 3 to 15 years. One of her calves has been loaned out to a park in Spain, and another one lives at the company's Florida theme park, the Orlando Sentinel reports. Researchers say they will use the birth of the baby to study orca development in ways that can't be done in the wild. SeaWorld will continue to care for the orcas and research them, minus the shows.