APNewsBreak: Baby orca! Last killer whale born at SeaWorld

She was pregnant for about a year and a half, according to SeaWorld, and was already carrying the baby when the company announced last March that it would stop breeding orcas in captivity.

The orca's birth in San Antonio, Texas, follows a decision in 2016 by the Florida-based company to stop breeding killer whales.

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. For killer whales, the gestation period is actually between 17 and 18 months.

Animal rights group People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) said SeaWorld should move Takara and her calf from their tank to an "ocean sanctuary", an area of sea enclosed by nets.

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Despite the criticism over their breeding programme, SeaWorld's chief zoological officer, Chris Dold, described the birth was a celebration because any whale birth is "extraordinary". The pair will provide data and samples to studies focused on killer whale growth and metabolism.

The company said previous year that it couldn't release its orcas into the wild because most were born and raised in captivity and "will likely die" if set free. The park had come under fire for its treatment of killer whales since the 2013 CNN documentary "Blackfish". "Natural orca encounters" will soon be offered at the parks instead of the once highly popular killer whale shows. Two are with her in San Diego, one is in Orlando and another is on loan to a theme park in Spain.

Following pressure from activists and declining ticket sales, SeaWorld announced the end of its orca shows and breeding programme previous year.

Spokeswoman Suzanne Pelisson Beasley said birth control and "social management" would prevent future orca breeding. The moment the calf is born, Takara is 100% focused on the care and well-being of that baby. The amusement park giant announced past year it will end its orca breeding program and stop the shows after pressure from animal rights advocates and public perception following the release of the film 'Blackfish'. "Takara and her calf are an important part of not only educating the visitors who see them at the parks, but also ongoing research that helps marine biologists understand how to better care for and protect orcas in the wild".

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