APNewsBreak: Baby orca! Last killer whale born at SeaWorld

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The birth at the San Antonio, Texas, theme park comes a year after SeaWorld's decision to stop breeding orcas. She was already pregnant when SeaWorld announced it would end breeding in March 2016.

Veterinarians haven't yet determined whether the calf's male or female.

The as-yet-unnamed baby was born to 25-year-old Takara, the matriarch of the park's pod.

"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", the company said in a statement Wednesday. SeaWorld said mother and calf both appear healthy. The park came under intense criticism following the 2013 documentary Blackfish, which shed a light on the conditions of orcas living in captivity.

"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.

"These are extraordinary moments", he said by phone while traveling to the USA from Abu Dhabi, where SeaWorld is developing its first new park without orcas. 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.

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Tilikum, which sired 14 calves over almost 25 years in Orlando, died of bacterial pneumonia in January. "It is incredible", said Julie Sigman, an Assistant Curator at SeaWorld San Antonio.

Tell us, HollywoodLifers - are you happy this is the last baby orca born in captivity at SeaWorld? "We take our lead from mom, Takara will let us know when she is ready for us to meet the calf and at that time we should be able to determine the gender".

Birth control and "social management" will prevent future orca pregnancies, said spokeswoman Suzanne Pelisson Beasley.

But the activist group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals said Wednesday night that it wasn't an either/or proposition.

Takara, born at SeaWorld San Diego, has had four other calves, which now range in age from 3 to 15 years. 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.

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