ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — SeaWorld officials are preparing for the last birth of an orca at one of its parks.
According to a statement Tuesday from the Orlando-based company, the calf will be born at SeaWorld San Antonio in the next four to six weeks.
This birth confirms the company’s commitment to making this the last generation of killer whales at its SeaWorld parks.
The mother, 25-year-old Takara, was already pregnant when SeaWorld announced last year that it was ending its orca breeding program. The gestation period for orcas is approximately 18 months. According to SeaWorld, she is expected to deliver her calf in the next four-to-six weeks.
Over two dozen orcas will remain on display for decades at SeaWorld parks in Orlando, San Diego, and San Antonio. But the birth of Takara's calf will be the last opportunity for visitors and marine scientists to see a baby orca up close.
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 whales in the wild as well as those in SeaWorld’s care.
SeaWorld officials said Takara and the calf will be monitored by a St. Mary's University research team to better understand the social impact of calves and their social development on the killer whale group.