ORLANDO, Fla. (WWJ/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.
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.
“SeaWorld has been listening and we’re changing,” the company said on its website. Society is changing and we’re changing with it. SeaWorld is finding new ways to continue to deliver on our purpose to inspire all our guest to take action to protect wild animals and wild places.”
SeaWorld says the company has not captured an orca, also know as a killer whale, from the wild in nearly 40 years. All of the orcas at SeaWorld were either born there or have spent almost their entire lives in human care.”
While over two dozen orcas will remain on display for decades at SeaWorld parks in Orlando, San Diego and San Antonio, the birth of Takara’s calf will be the last opportunity for visitors to see a baby orca up close.
SeaWorld officials say Takara and the calf will be monitored by a St. Mary’s University research team.
SeaWorld has faced criticism in recent years, especially following the release of the highly critical documentary film, Blackfish and the killing of a trainer by an orca. The company has dismissed Blackfish as propaganda, and remained firm in its stance concerning whales in captivity.
“These majestic orcas will not be released into the ocean, nor confined to sea cages,” the company “They could not survive in oceans to compete for food, be exposed to unfamiliar diseases or to have to deal with environmental concerns – including pollution and other man-made threats.”
“Instead, they will live long and healthy lives under love and care of our dedicated veterinary and other trained specialists where they can inspire this and future generations to be conservationists around the world through natural presentations that are fun, exiting and will educate guests about the plight of orcas in the wild.”
© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.