Tag Archives: baby orca

Sad news from SeaWorld, their last orca calf has died

Kyara with her mom, Takara. Credit: SeaWorld

This news must be heartbreaking for those who spent almost two years in waiting for and caring for Kyara, SeaWorld’s last captive bred baby whale. No matter what your views on captivity, the whales require an enormous amount of daily care by people who are genuinely dedicated and concerned about their welfare and those people deserve acknowledgement for the difficult time they must be going through.
In SeaWorld’s statement below it is reported that Kyara’s family is already back to normal, which implies either the whales don’t know that the calf is dead or that she was dead to them once she was taken away for treatment – either way, it has to been difficult for the calf’s family.
Whales and dolphins have been shown to need time to grieve (Adult Male Pilot Whale Carries Dead Calf; Cetaceans Need Time To Grieve)  and I hope the calf’s family was given time with her body even though it is not traditionally done in captivity. Wild orca mothers have shown what is interpreted as mourning (Mother Orca And Her Dead Calf: A Mother’s Grief? ) so it is logical to think that this would be true in captivity as well.
Be that as it may, SeaWorld has been relatively forthcoming and has given a somewhat detailed report on Kyara’s death – in the past they would have covered up or clammed up entirely. It’s progress.

SeaWorld Is Saddened To Announce The Passing Of Kyara

July 24, 2017
This weekend Kyara, the 3-month-old killer whale calf at SeaWorld San Antonio, was being treated at the park’s Animal Hospital for an infection. The dedicated team of veterinarians and care staff spent the last three days providing critical care for Kyara, but despite their best efforts, her health continued to decline and she passed away earlier today.
She was surrounded by the dedicated teams that cared for her over the last three months and fought tirelessly for her over the last several days.
Julie, just one of the orca trainers that spent countless hours caring for the San Antonio orca pod, including many nights with the calf, said “Kyara had a tremendous impact on each of her care staff, not to mention all of the guests that had the chance to see her. From late nights to early morning, rain or shine, we dedicate our lives to these animals, and this loss will be felt throughout the entire SeaWorld family.”
The team’s attention now turns to the rest of the orca pod, especially Takara, to provide the care and attention they need. The veterinary team will conduct a full post mortem examination to determine the cause of death. It may take several weeks before results are finalized.The global SeaWorld team is united in support of our San Antonio family as they go through this extremely difficult time.
Question & Answer:
When did Kyara die?
Kyara passed away early today, July 24, surrounded by the dedicated SeaWorld staff that not only cared for her for the last several months, as well as the staff that fought tireless to save her life over the last several days.
How did Kyara die?
Kyara had faced some very serious and progressive health issues over the last week that the animal care and veterinary teams had been aggressively treating. While the official cause of death will not be determined until the post-mortem exam is complete, we know that Kyara had an infection, likely pneumonia, and that her health continued to decline.
When was Kyara born?
Kyara was born in April to mom Takara at SeaWorld San Antonio.
Do you know what illness she had?
While the official cause of death won’t be determined until the post-mortem exam is complete, through monitoring Kyara’s behavior, and a physical examination, SeaWorld’s veterinary and animal care teams identified that she had an infection, likely pneumonia, that they were aggressively  treating. Pneumonia has been identified as one of the most common causes of morbidity or illness in whales and dolphins, both in the wild and in aquariums.
Why did you remove Kyara from her mom?
Our primary concern was the health of Kyara. The expert veterinary and animal care teams made the decision to bring Kyara to the husbandry pool at the Animal Hospital to ensure she received the necessary hydration and treatment. Additionally, Kyara had not been receiving the daily nutrition that she needed, so the teams supplemented that nutrition through hand-feeding multiple times each day.
How were you treating her? What medications was she receiving? 
Kyara was under 24-hr care and watch at the animal hospital at SeaWorld San Antonio. In addition to monitoring her 24/7, the expert veterinary staff was treating her with antimicrobials, including antibiotics, for any infections she was fighting. Additionally, the team was hand-feeding her in an effort to ensure she received the nutrition she needed.
How is her mom, Takara, and the rest of the pod doing? 
Takara’s behavior was back to normal by the end of the weekend. Additionally, the rest of the pod is responding well and behaving normally. While the loss of Kyara is heartbreaking for the animal care, veterinary and training teams, as well as the entire SeaWorld family, our focus is now on continuing the care of the rest of the orca pod back at Shamu Stadium.
Is there any chance other killer whales will get this illness?
No other members of the SeaWorld San Antonio orca pod are showing any signs of illness, but they continued to be monitored and cared for by SeaWorld’s expert veterinary and animal care teams.
How will this impact the killer whale shows?
The One Ocean shows at SeaWorld San Antonio will be cancelled for the rest of the day, July 24. Guests should check the SeaWorldSanAntonio.com website, or with Guest Services, for scheduling for thre rest of the week.
Was this caused by being in captivity?
No, Kyara’s pneumonia has been identified as the most common cause of mortality and illness in whales in dolphins, both in the wild and in zoological facilities.
Will you make the results of the necropsy public?
Post mortem exams are detailed clinical investigations that include a good deal of laboratory testing. We will provide an update on SeaWorldCares.com as soon as the full results have come back.

Sixth New Calf for the Endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales, the Fifth This Calendar Year!

“Great news!!! A new calf was documented today in J pod! The calf, designated J53, was seen traveling with J17. This is the third calf in J pod this year! More information will be coming soon . . . .” The Center for Whale Research

The Center for Whale Research reports that J50 was born in December (so she is a 2014 calf). J51, J52 and now J53 are all 2015 calves. L121, and L122 are also 2015 calves.


Southern Resident killer whales are the only known resident population to occur in the U.S. Southern residents are comprised of three pods: J, K, and L pods. The Southern Residentsare considered one “stock” under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) and one “distinct population segment” (therefore, “species”) under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
The Southern Resident Killer Whale population is currently estimated at about 80 whales, a decline from its estimated historical level of about 200 during the late 1800s.
Beginning in the late 1960s, the live-capture fishery for oceanarium display removed an estimated 47 whales and caused an immediate decline in Southern Resident numbers. The population fell an estimated 30% to about 67 whales by 1971. By 2003, the population increased to 83 whales. Due to its small population size, we listed this segment of the population as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 2005 and designated critical habitat in 2006.
Their range during the spring, summer, and fall includes the inland waterways of Washington state and the transboundary waters between the United States and Canada. Relatively little is known about the winter movements and range of the Southern Resident stock. However, in recent years, they have been regularly spotted as far south as central California during the winter months and as far north as Southeast Alaska, through our Northwest Fisheries Science Center’s satellite tagging work. (NOAA).
More information soon!

New Baby Whale for Seattle’s Urban Orcas!

New calf L122 with mom, L91
New calf L122 with mom, L91 (Center for Whale Research)

In the fall the Southern Resident orcas are frequently seen in Puget Sound, so if you live in the region you can watch for the new baby, the fifth born this year.
CWR Press Release:
Today there was another new baby in the L pod! L91 was first seen near Sooke, BC this morning with a very newborn calf, confirmed a few hours later by Mark Malleson off Victoria, BC and CWR staffers, Dave Ellifrit and Melissa Pinnow, and by colleagues Drs. John Durban, Holly Fearnbach, and Lance Barrett-Lennard.
These latter colleagues happened to be in the area conducting a sequel to CWR aerial measurements of all of the SRKW’s (Southern Resident Killer Whales), this time with a very sophisticated hexacopter (Unmanned Aerial System – UAS, or drone). The measurements were accomplished on the US side of the border as Dave and Melissa took numerous identification photographs from the research vessel “Orca” at a respectful distance.
New calves are usually orange or yellowish in their white markings.
New calves are usually orange or yellowish in their white markings. (Center for Whale Research)

The new calf is designated L122, and is the fifth new baby to come into the population since December, 2014. The mother and baby and other L pod whales spent the afternoon and evening in Haro Strait ‘fishing’, and by days end were joined by J and K pod members.

In the forty year history of ORCA SURVEY, a long-term photo-identification study of this whale population the greatest number of calves born in a year was 9 in 1977, and there were none born that survived in 2013 or 2014. We hope this year’s ‘baby-boom’ represents a turn-around in what has been a negative population trend in recent years.
11998829_1035170856502422_2465932823703617561_n L122
(Center for Whale Research)

The New Baby Whale in J Pod Brings Hope of Recovery for the Southern Resident Orcas

“Pacific Whale Watch Association (PWWA) crews report today a new calf spotted among the endangered Southern Resident Community, the population’s fourth baby in three months. The birth was confirmed tonight by the Center for Whale Research.”
Photo by Jeanne Hyde
Photo by Jeanne Hyde

The Center for Whale Research  will report on the mother’s identity when she is identified. This brings the population of wild Southern Resident orcas to 81. There is one Southern resident orca in captivity (Lolita) so the total number of Southern resident orcas is actually 82.
March 30, 2015
Press release via Orca Conservancy from the Pacific Whale Watch Association  :

Pacific Whale Watch Association Crews Report Another Birth Today in Southern Resident Community, Its Fourth Calf in Three Months – Confirmed by Center for Whale Research
Newborn J-Pod calf seen today near Active Pass, BC.

Naturalist/researcher Jeanne Hyde was onboard with Captain Spencer Domico of Maya’s Legacy Whale Watching shortly after noon today watching the subgroup J16s with their three-month-old calf J50 off Galiano Island, BC.
“We were assuming we had only the J16s,” recounts Hyde. “And as they passed in front of the boat I saw a small calf surfacing next to J16 and said, ‘there’s the baby.’ But then J50 surfaced behind all the rest. That’s when I told Spencer, ‘I think there are two calves!”
The crew noted heavy fetal folds on the baby, which indicates that it was newborn.
Also out today with the newest addition to the Southern Resident Community were Capt. Jim Maya of Maya’s Legacy Whale Watching on San Juan Island, and Capt. Mark Malleson of Prince of Whales of Whales Whale Watching in Victoria.
“J-Pod is certainly doing all it can to rebuild the ranks,” explains Michael Harris, Executive Director of the PWWA, which represents 29 whale watch operators in Washington and British Columbia taking out about a half-million passengers a year. “The Southern Residents are a long way from being out of the woods, these calves too, but this is great news. We’re going to keep a careful watch on these babies and our fingers crossed – and of course continue to do everything we can to rebuild these salmon runs and feed these whales. There’s still a lot of work to be done, but it’s pretty clear the efforts PWWA and so many other groups are undertaking on both sides of the border on salmon recovery is taking us in the right direction. Let’s hope this baby boom means these endangered population has finally turned the corner.”
This latest addition would bring the Southern Residents to 81 individuals, with its 82nd member, the L-Pod whale Lolita, now in Miami Seaquarium.
HOW TO HELP: For all those who want to help the whales, become a Member of The Center for Whale Research! The Pacific Whale Watch Association is proud to be a longtime supporter of Ken Balcomb and his team. Help them help the whales. www.whaleresearch.com

The Orcas Have a New Baby At Last – First One in Two Years for the Southern Resident Orcas!

The new calf, tucked in next to her mom, L 86, and and aunt, L 27. (Photo by Dave Ellifrit).
The new calf, tucked in next to her mom, L 86, and aunt, L 27. (Photo by Dave Ellifrit).

This is fantastic news, the population of Southern Resident orcas now stands at 79.

Great news! We finally have new calf in L pod. L86 was seen today by the Center for Whale Research (CWR) staff with a brand new calf who will be designated L120. This is the first new calf in the Southern Resident orca population since 2012.

The population has been in decline due to a suite of factors.  The scientists point out that salmon availability is probably the main cause, but also included are the effects of toxins in the environment, sound pollution, and boat traffic.
We will be rooting for this little one, and will post photos as soon as possible.

L pod in California, photo by Nancy Black, 2008.
L pod visting California, photo by Nancy Black, 2008.

Lost Orca Whale Needs Time and Food, Will Norway Help?

Center for Whale Research
Center for Whale Research

UPDATE! Norway cares, and in a big way! Please check the International Dolphin and Whale Stranding Network for further updates.

This calf was not sighted today; it may have headed else where or out to sea – or may have died. It is only about 15 days old!
Reposting: My name is Eve Jourdain, I am a biologist specialized in Orcas and currently in Andenes, North of Norway running a whale-watching season as a guide. You may know that a couple of days ago, a baby orca was found in Alsvag, Oksnes, alone. I’ve been yesterday to check it out, and as an orca biologist, I would like to share with you what I know from the situation. I saw this calf for the first time on Sunday at 2pm. The calf is roughly 15 days old and not in a good shape. As you can see on the pictures, it has a really thin layer of blubber, and to me, it seems very skinny. It has been spotted for the first time by locals 5 days ago and some people tried to feed it with fish. Its body needs milk of course, but at least some calories! It is an emergency now and its state was really critical. After getting home last night, I got in touch with the Norwegian Fisheries Department, asking for a permission, at least to try to help this orca. The plan was then to wait for the morning, to find it again, and to invite the authorities and decide about a potential rescue plan with their permission. Unfortunately, even after long hours at sea this morning looking for this calf, we didn’t find it. Some people from the North Atlantic Society are still on the spot, looking. I think I built a strong network of contacts (authorities + vet + scientists) here last night, and we are able to organize something to help this orca if we find it again. The plan has to be discussed if needed, but it would probably be to provide intense cares and feeding as a first step. To do it, we need a small sea pen. Indeed, put this orca in a tank/aquarium is not even an option!! Norway doesn’t want to see “Morgan’s case” happening again!
I will let you know if I have anything new.
I have attached some pictures I took yesterday.
Have a nice day.
Eve Jourdain

Another young orca has been separated from its family and faces an uncertain future in the frigid northern Norwegian fjords.  In April last year a similarly isolated young orca in Norway was shot and killed within a day of its discovery, before any attempts to rescue and possibly find its natal pod could be made – hopefully the present situation will resolve in a better outcome, although this young whale’s prospects are not good at the moment.
Yet if you consider the gift that the lost whale Luna gave to us, you can’t help but hope that we keep trying to help, given that we are so often the cause of these separations in the first, given the amount of noise we create in the ocean environment, and the loss of fishery stocks.

In this case at least, Norway whale expert Tiu Similä   was consulted and offered her opinion.  “This orca-[calf] in Alsvåg can not fend for [itself]. As it has been without his [pod] at least five days now, it probably pretty hungry and probably stressed.The reason why it nearly stranded by Instøya was enough that there was a shallow sand beach that makes echolocation, especially for one inexperienced animals difficult.”

Photo by Kristoffer Larsen
Photo by Kristoffer Larsen

As an emergency measure right now can be said that offer this young orca fish.But the ethical dilemma is what to do next. I am of the opinion that these animals should live with the family flock. Killer whales (both males and females) is in the herd are born throughout life (the mating between the flocks), it may say little of the significance of the pack. If your kid is fed, so it can survive, but you may ask what kind of life it’s going to get.
To get it returned to his family should happen as soon as possible, but is probably not practically feasible. First, one does not know the family relationship and, secondly, the killer whale now heading south to the herring spawn. To get this kid transported there and get it reunited with his family is probably a totally impossible task.
I’m not sure what kind of authority that is responsible for this animal. I think though that it should be excused because the chance that it will be able to live as normal a killer whale is very small. But this, other than me considering.
Transport to one aquarium is certainly not recommended! Living in a pool is not one for a killer whale … (Norwegian article here).

Alsvig, Norway.
Alsvig, Norway.

Given that this young whale is hanging around in the vicinity of a fish farm it would seem an easy enough thing to provide it with fish until its family can be located.  I’m sure that to the fish farmers the orca (or any marine mammal for that matter) represents potential loss – yet a one year old calf is hardly likely to cause damage, and the local businesses would benefit from the revenue its presence is sure to generate.
Why not at least try?

Name the Captive Baby Orca Contest

Orca "Wikie" and her new calf at Marineland, Antibes, France (AP)

Marineland in Antibes, France, is looking for suggestions for naming the month old calf born to 10 year old Wikie.  This female calf is the result of artificial insemination by one of SeaWorld’s males, probably Ulises, and although she is the first calf born to a very young mother she seems to be doing well.  Wikie’s own mother, Shakan, was an excellent mother and successfully raised calves before succumbing to an eye infection and dying in 2009 in her early 20’s – and usually the young females learn parenting skills from their mothers, much like we do.  Born and raised in captivity, Wikie is able to help the calf in that environment (as opposed to wild-caught orcas who have had very limited success in rearing offspring in captivity).
To suggest a name, just go to their facebook page, you will have to “like” them then you can comment. It is in french but all you have to do is hit the comment icon as usual and enter your suggestions, make sure you are on the entry that says Grand Jeu : Proposez un prénom pour le bébé orque de Wikie .  My french is rusty, but from what I can decipher, you have until April 26th to make your suggestions. Another peaceful protest-
Mine are:
Bebe d’enfant (baby from a child, since her mother was impregnated when she was way too young, in the wild orcas are not known to have calves this young).
Bonne Chance (good luck)
Conscience de soi (self aware – maybe saying this name will remind people that these animals are self aware and shouldn’t be kept in captivity)
Gold Mine (that is what she is to the industry)

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