Baby orca! Last killer whale born at SeaWorld

"The birth of Takara's calf is also the last chance for researchers to study orca development in ways that can not be done in the wild, helping to benefit wild whales as well as those in SeaWorld's care", the company said in a statement Wednesday.

"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", SeaWorld added.

A killer whale calf was born Wednesday at SeaWorld San Antonio in Texas, marking the last one birthed in captivity at the company's marine parks.

The Orlando-based company said the orca — the last in a generation of whales bred in confinement — was born Wednesday afternoon. Observations about the calf and Takara by SeaWorld trainers will be provided from the moment of birth to researchers trying to fill gaps in their data about wild killer whales.

The mother, 25-year-old Takara, was already pregnant when SeaWorld announced the end of its breeding programme in March 2016.

The calf was born after an 18-month gestation and is estimated to weigh between 300 and 350 pounds (136 and 159 kg) and measure between 6 and 7 feet (1.8 to 2.1 meters), SeaWorld said.

SeaWorld's chief zoological officer, Chris Dold told the paper that the calf was born normally - tail first - after about an hour and a half of labor. SeaWorld said it had been a smooth delivery and both mother and calf appear to be healthy.

As NPR's Greg Allen has reported, SeaWorld's treatment of its orcas came under scrutiny with the release of the 2013 documentary Blackfish. She previously gave birth to four other calves - two of them are at SeaWorld San Antonio.

Spokeswoman Suzanne Pelisson Beasley said birth control and "social management" would prevent future orca breeding.

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