SeaWorld California welcomed the birth of a baby killer whale on 2nd December. Weighing in at approximately 300 pounds, this is the park’s seventh successful killer whale birth.Kalia, 10, gave birth at Shamu Stadium under the watchful eyes of the SeaWorld’s zoological team members and her mother, Kasatka.
Kalia’s pregnancy and the birth of her calf not only demonstrate the ongoing success of the killer whale breeding program at the world’s leading zoological organisation, but also could be of tremendous assistance to researchers monitoring endangered wild killer whale populations.
The U.S. National Marine Fisheries Services has partnered with SeaWorld California to conduct a two-year aerial photographic monitoring study with the park’s killer whales in order to assess changes in body weight and pregnancy status over time – Kalia being one of the killer whales photographed during her 17-month gestation.
The study will allow researchers to detect body changes within wild whales. The results from this study will be integrated into a database of longitudinal photographs of free-ranging killer whales from the North Pacific (Southern Resident population) and Antarctica in order to identify pregnant whales and weight loss for these species. Data on body condition and growth can provide important indications of individual health and population status, and specifically can indicate a response to the effects of nutritional stress due to limited food availability.
Data on pregnancy status can provide accurate calf survival rate for free-ranging killer whales for the first time. This study will directly address data gaps identified by the National Marine Fisheries Service in the Southern Resident killer whale recovery plan. The Southern Resident killer whales in the Pacific Northwest is an endangered population.
“We’re pleased that our killer whale family is able to advance the science and conservation of killer whales in the wild,” said Dr. Judy St. Leger, SeaWorld’s vice president of research and science. “Having the ability the photograph Kalia during her length of her pregnancy in a safe and controlled environment gives us information that we couldn’t obtain any other way.”
To watch the amazing moment Kalia's calf is born, please click here