SeaWorld orca is pregnant with 1st calf

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SAN DIEGO — A killer whale born at SeaWorld San Diego in December 2004 is pregnant with her first calf, the theme park announced Tuesday.

SeaWorldKalia is due in December, SeaWorld spokesman David Koontz said.

He said Kalia mated with the park’s oldest male killer whale, Ulises, last summer and was also artificially inseminated with his sperm. The gestation period for an orca is nearly a year and a half.

Ulises is in his mid to late 30s, according to Koontz, who said female killer whales begin breeding at around seven to 10 years of age.

If all goes well, the offspring would be the second orca born at SeaWorld San Diego and the seventh overall. Makani was born to Kasatka two months ago.

Koontz said SeaWorld has a breeding program that enriches the lives of the animals by allowing them to experience, interact with and help raise another member of their pod while allowing the public to understand, appreciate and enjoy the whales.

The breeding program also enables research scientists to examine the population and social dynamics of killer whales more fully than is possible from studying them in the wild. Scientists have been able to document estrous cycling, conception, gestation, birth and development of killer whale calves, he said.

SeaWorld has pointed to scientific research in fending off attempts by animal rights advocates to end its “Shamu” killer whale shows. State legislation, inspired by the documentary “Blackfish,” to prohibit killer whale shows was recently shelved.

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