orca birth

The World’s Most “Successful” Captive Breeding Program

Seaworld prides itself in being the leader of killer whale breeding in the world, and the birth of Amaya (pictured) marks the first fourth generation captive born orca. sounds like a success, right? Let’s look at what Seaworld probably won’t tell you.

The average age a whale at Seaworld gives birth to her first calf is 10.4. 

Of twelve first time mothers, three neglected their calves instantly, or shortly after birth. In the wild, females don’t normally reproduce until 14 or 15, though they have given birth younger. The youngest Seaworld orca to give birth was Kalina, who had her son Keet at age 7.

3 killer whales born into Seaworld’s collection are inbred.

Nalani was the first inbred orca, being a result of mother/son mating. Adan and Victoria at Loro Parque were a result of uncle/niece breeding, and Victoria died at 10 months old due to intestinal problems. The Seaworld gene pool is extremely small, and this is probably why artificial insemination is becoming more popular.

Though 33 calves were born alive at Seaworld in the past 30 years, only 21 are alive today. 

Most did survive infancy and then died as they matured. The oldest one of these orcas was only 25. 

3 young females at Seaworld died while pregnant.

Kona 2 died while pregnant at age 12, Kenau died at age age 16 while 12 months pregnant, and Haida 2 died while 5 months pregnant.

3 Additional Orcas have Died From Birth Complications at Young Ages

Samoa was the first in 1992, dying while giving birth to a stillborn calf that had already started to decompose in her uterus at age 12. Gudrun died shortly after giving birth to a stillborn calf in 1996 at 20 years old. Her daughter, Taima suffered a similar fate, dying while giving birth to what would have been her fourth calf (though fifth pregnancy) in 2010, also at age 20.

The average calving interval (including stillbirths but excluding miscarriages) for Seaworld orcas is 2.8 years.

In the wild orcas normally wait 4 or 5 years between calves, unless their calves die young. The only Seaworld mother to get that average is Kasatka who has had an average of 5.5 years between calves.

Tilikum is related to 15 captive born killer whales at Seaworld parks, out of 23 living out of the parks. That’s 65% of Seaworld’s captive born killer whales.

The gene pool is small, as I have mentioned time and time again.

Of the 23 captive born killer whales currently in Seaworld’s collection, 12 are hybrids.

These animals are useless for conservation purposes as there is no way that they, or their offspring could ever be released. Factors such as outbreeding depression can also effect the health of these animals. 12 Seaworld captive born killer whales have died prematurely, 7 of these animals were hybrids.

There have been 6 stillbirths at Seaworld Parks and 5 known miscarriages.

There are plenty more rumoured miscarriages. 

Photo belongs to Seaworld.

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Captive Orca Mothers-#1 Katina

Status: Alive
Current Age: Approx. 39
Blood Type: 100% Icelandic
Number of Calves: 7
First Calf: Kalina (born in 1985)
Last Calf: Makaio (born in 2010)
Average Calving Interval: 3.6 years
Calves Still Alive: 4. Unna (born 1996), Ikaika (born 2001), Nalani (born 2006, inbred), and Makaio (born 2010)
Deceased Calves: 3. Kalina (born 1985), Katerina (born 1988), and Taku (born 1996)
Separation Rate: 81% (though was later reunited with one calf who was separated.)
Age at time of first calf: Approx. 10
Notable Facts: Katina has had more calves than any other female at Seaworld, and is one of the few to have no confirmed miscarriages or stillbirths. She was he first orca to successfully give birth and raise a calf in captivity. Katina’s genes are the second most represented in Seaworld’s collection, next to Tilikum. Katina was also the first mother to give birth to an inbred calf, which was a result of mother/son mating with her son, Taku. She will likely not be bred again due to her age and gene representation. Katina is regarded most of the time as a good mother, and has been close to all of her calves, though she seems to favour her sons to her daughters.

Photos belong to Seaworld