Captive killer whales

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Orca show at Sea World San Diego

Captive orcas, or killer whales, are large predatory marine mammals that were first captured live and displayed in exhibitions in the 1960s, and soon became popular attractions at public aquariums and aquatic theme parks due to their intelligence, trainability, striking appearance, playfulness in captivity and sheer size. However, the captive environment usually bears little resemblance to their wild habitat, and the social groups that the killer whales are put into are foreign to those found in the wild. The practice of keeping killer whales in captivity is controversial.[1]



Transient orcas near Unimak Island, eastern Aleutian Islands, Alaska

The orca (Orcinus orca) or killer whale is the largest species of the dolphin family. It is found in all the world's oceans, from the frigid Arctic and Antarctic regions to warm, tropical seas. Killer whales are versatile and opportunistic predators. Some populations feed mostly on fish, and other populations hunt marine mammals, including sea lions, seals, walruses and even large whales. They are considered the apex predator of the marine world. There are up to five distinct killer whale types, some of which may be separate races, subspecies or even species. Killer whales are highly social; some populations are composed of matrilineal family groups, which are the most stable of any animal species.[2] The sophisticated social behavior, hunting techniques, and vocal behavior of killer whales have been described as manifestations of culture.[3]

Although killer whales are not an endangered species, some local populations are considered threatened or endangered due to pollution by PCBs, depletion of prey species, captures for marine mammal parks, conflicts with fishing activities, acoustic pollution, shipping vessels, stress from whale-watching boats, and habitat loss.[4][5][6]

Capture and breeding

Orcas are large, active and intelligent. Males range from 6 to 9.7 m (20 to 32 ft) and weigh over 8 tonnes (8.8 tons), while females range from 5 to 7 m (16 to 23 ft) and weigh 3 to 5 tonnes (3.3 to 5.5 tons).[7] It is extremely difficult to capture orcas and to provide a healthy environment for the captives. Early attempts in the 1960s caused many injuries and deaths. However, with experience the teams who specialized in the business became more adept and post-capture survival rates improved. Live captures peaked in the early 1970s, but have become increasingly rare as the marine parks have learned how to maintain theme park populations through captive breeding and artificial insemination.

North Eastern Pacific Captures

The dorsal fin and saddle patch of a resident orca in the northeastern Pacific Ocean. It may be either an adult female, or a juvenile of either sex.

The first North Eastern Pacific orca (Wanda) was captured in November 1961 by a collecting crew from Marineland of the Pacific in Los Angeles. The 5.2 m (17 ft) orca was placed in a tank at the aquarium, where she repeatedly crashed into the walls. She died the following day. The next orca captured, Moby Doll, had been harpooned and shot in 1964 and survived for three months when brought back for display to Vancouver, British Columbia.[8] The third capture for display occurred in June 1965 when William Lechkobit found a 22 foot (6.7m) male orca in his floating salmon net that had drifted close to shore near Namu, British Columbia. The orca was sold for $8,000 to Ted Griffin, a Seattle public aquarium owner. Named after his place of capture, Namu was the subject of a film that changed some people's attitudes toward orcas[9] He survived one year in captivity and died in his pen on July 9, 1966.[10]

During the 1960s and early 1970s, nearly 70 orcas were taken from Pacific waters for exhibition. The Southern Resident community of the Northeast Pacific lost 48 of its members to captivity. By 1976, only 80 orcas were left in the community, which remains endangered. With subsequent captures, the theme parks learned more about avoiding injury during capture and subsequent care of orcas, and discovered that they could be trained to perform tricks, a great attraction to visitors. As commercial demand increased, growing numbers of Pacific orcas were captured, peaking in 1970.[11]

A turning point came with a mass capture of orcas from the L-25 pod in August 1970 at Penn Cove, Puget Sound off the coast of Washington. The Penn Cove capture became controversial due to the large number of wild orcas that were taken (seven) and the number of deaths that resulted: four juveniles died, as well as one adult female who drowned when she became tangled in a net while attempting to reach her calf. In an attempt to conceal the deaths from the public, all five of the whales had their bellies slit open and filled with rocks, their tails weighted down with anchors and chains. The facts surrounding their deaths were discovered three months later after three of the dead whales washed ashore on Whidbey Island. Public concern about the welfare of the animals and the impact of captures on the wild pods led to the Marine Mammal Protection Act being passed in 1972 by the US Congress, protecting orcas from being harassed or killed, and requiring special permits for capture. Since then, few wild orcas have been captured in Northeastern Pacific waters.[12][13]

Lolita, originally known as Tokitae, was a survivor of the Penn Cove captures. She was about six years old at time of capture and is now the oldest captive orca. Lolita is the subject of the documentary Lolita: Slave to Entertainment, released in 2008.[14] Various groups still argue that Lolita should be released into the wild.[15][16][17]

Icelandic captures

Keiko is weighed as he is loaded into his specially made transport tank at the Oregon State Aquarium, on Sept. 9, 1998.

When the US Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 effectively stopped the capture of Pacific orcas, exhibitors such as Sea World found a regime more tolerant of orca captures in Iceland. Icelandic herring fishermen had traditionally seen orcas as competitors for their catch, and sale of live orcas promised a large new source of income. 48 live orcas captured in Icelandic waters were exported to marine parks between 1976 and 1988. The capture process was based on luring the orcas by dumping leftovers from herring fishing in front of the pod, capturing the orcas in a purse seine net, selecting desirable animals and hauling them onboard in a specially designed frame, then placing them in foam-lined boxes full of seawater.[18] However, restrictions on US orca import permits and advances in captive breeding programs meant that the market never became as large as expected. Growing concern from conservationists and animal rights activists has caused the Icelandic government to limit the number of orcas that may be captured each year.[19]

Perhaps the best known of the Icelandic captives is Keiko, caught in 1979 and sold to the Icelandic aquarium in Hafnarfjörður. Three years later, he was sold to Marineland Canada, where he first started performing for the public and developed skin lesions indicative of poor health. He was then sold to Reino Aventura (now named Six Flags Mexico), an amusement park in Mexico City, in 1985. He was the star of the 1993 movie Free Willy, the publicity from which led to an effort by Warner Brothers Studio to find him a better home. Using donations from the studio, Craig McCaw and millions of school children, the Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport, Oregon spent over $7 million to construct facilities to return him to health with the hope of returning him to the wild. He was airlifted to his new home in January 1996, where he soon regained weight. In September 1998, he was flown to Klettsvik Bay in Vestmannaeyjar in Iceland, and gradually reintroduced to the wild, returning to the open sea in July 2002. Keiko died from pneumonia in December 2003. He had become lethargic and had a loss of appetite. He beached himself in the morning and died aged 27 years.[20][21]

North Western Pacific captures

1,477 orcas were hunted in Japanese waters between 1948 and 1972, 545 of them around Hokkaido. Killer whale encounters in Japanese waters are now rare.[22] In 1997 a group of ten orcas was corralled by Japanese fisherman banging on iron rods and using water bombs to disorientate the animals and force them into a bay near Taiji, Wakayama. They were held in the bay for two days before being auctioned to Japanese marine parks. Five animals were released, and the other five transported via road or sea to the aquariums. All five are dead.[23]

The first live orca captured in Russia was an 18-foot (5.5 m)-long female estimated to be about six years old, captured off the Pacific coast of the Kamchatka district on September 26, 2003. She was transferred over 7,000 miles (11,000 km) to a facility owned by the Utrish Dolphinarium on the Black Sea, where she died in October 2003 after less than a month in captivity.[24]

Orcas born in captivity

A growing number of theme-park orcas have been born in captivity. Kalina, a female orca born in September 1985 at SeaWorld Orlando, was the first captive orca calf to survive more than few days. Kalina's mother is an Icelandic female named Katina, and her father, Winston (also known as Ramu III), was a Pacific Southern Resident, making Kalina an Atlantic/Pacific hybrid — a unique situation that would not have occurred in the wild.[25]

The first orca conceived through artificial insemination was Nakai who was born to Kasatka at the SeaWorld park in San Diego in September 2001.[26] A female orca named Kohana, the second orca conceived in this manner, was born at the same park eight months later.[27] Artificial insemination lets park owners maintain a healthier genetic mix in the small groups of orcas at each park while avoiding the stress of moving orcas for breeding purposes.[28]

The practice of exhibiting orcas born in captivity is less controversial than of retaining free-born orcas, since the captive-born orcas have known no other world and may not be able to adapt to life in the wild. Captive breeding also promises to reduce incentives to capture wild orcas.[29] However, in January 2002 the Miami Seaquarium stated that captive orcas are dying faster than they are being born, and as it is virtually impossible to obtain orcas captured from the wild, the business of exhibiting captive orcas may eventually disappear.[30]

Orca captivity locations

A killer whale show at SeaWorld, San Diego, California

As of February 2010, 42 orcas are held captive at facilities in North and South America, Europe and Japan, providing entertainment for theme park visitors.[31] Building the physical infrastructure of the parks has required major capital expenditure, but as the star attractions the orcas are arguably the most valuable and irreplaceable assets. Exhibition of captive orcas generates large revenues.


SeaWorld is a chain of marine mammal parks in the United States and is the largest owner of captive orcas in the world. The parks feature orca, sea lion, and dolphin shows and zoological displays featuring various other marine animals. The parks' icon is Shamu, the orca.[32] Parks include:

The killer whale show at the Miami Seaquarium starring Lolita.

Miami Seaquarium

The Miami Seaquarium is an aquarium located on Virginia Key in Biscayne Bay near downtown Miami, Florida. A subsidiary of the privately held Wometco Enterprises, the Seaquarium was the first major marine park attraction in South Florida, opening in 1955. In addition to marine mammals, the Miami Seaquarium houses fish, sharks, sea turtles, birds and reptiles.[33] It is home to Lolita (aka Tokitae), the oldest orca in captivity.[34]

Six Flags Discovery Kingdom

Six Flags Discovery Kingdom (formerly Six Flags Marine World, Marine World, The New Marine World Theme Park, and Marine World Africa USA) is an amusement and animal park located in Vallejo, California. Shouka was moved to SeaWorld San Diego on August 20, 2012.

Marineland Canada

Marineland is a privately held themed amusement and animal exhibition park in the city of Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada. Owing to its proximity to the falls and other natural park areas and its blend of animal attractions and rides, it is one of the main tourist destinations in Niagara Falls, Canada.[35]

Marineland (Antibes)

Marineland is an animal exhibition park in Antibes, France, founded in 1970. It receives more than 1,200,000 visitors per year, and is the only French sea park featuring two cetacean species: killer whales and dolphins. The park is a subsidiary of Parques Reunidos, a Spanish group with properties in Europe, Argentina and the USA.

Loro Parque

Loro Parque (Spanish for "parrot park") is a zoo located on the outskirts of Puerto de la Cruz on Tenerife. The park has the world's largest indoor penguin exhibition, the longest shark tunnel in Europe, and is one of only two parks in Europe to house orcas.[36]

In February 2006, Loro Parque received four young orcas; two males, Keto (born in 1995) and Tekoa (born in 2000), and two females, Kohana (2002) and Skyla (2004) on loan from SeaWorld. Sea World still maintains ownership of these animals, and has sent its own professionals, including trainers, curators & veterinarians, to supplement the staff at Loro Parque. In 2004 and 2005, before the orcas were brought to Loro Parque, eight animal trainers from the park were sent to Sea World parks in Texas and Florida for training. However, only half of these trainers are currently employed in Orca Ocean, Loro Parque's facility for the killer whales. None of the subsequent employees hired have been sent to Sea World parks for training.[37] On December 24, 2009, orca trainer Alexis Martinez, age 29, was killed during a Christmas show rehearsal when there was an incident involving one of the orcas, presumably Keto, resulting in his drowning. He had worked at Loro Parque since 2004. From this date the trainers no longer enter the water with the orcas during live shows.

Dolfinarium Harderwijk

The Harderwijk Dolfinarium in the Netherlands temporary housed a young orca named Morgan. On June 23, 2010 she was found in the Dutch part of the Wadden Sea. On July 19, 2011 the director of the dolfinarium told the Dutch press that Morgan would be transferred to Loro Parque on Tenerife, Spain to be with her kind. She was moved to Loro Parque on November 29, 2011.[38]

Mundo Marino

Mundo Marino, located south of Buenos Aires in the coastal town of San Clemente del Tuyú, Argentina, is the largest aquarium in South America. Mundo Marino is home to one male orca, Kshamenk, that was stranded, or force-stranded, in 1992.[39] Kshamenk is estimated to have been around 4 years old when captured.

Other Marine Exhibitions

Captivity conditions

Tank size and water conditions

Legal requirements for tank size vary greatly from country to country. In the US, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS),[40] under the USDA, sets standards for the care of captive orcas. APHIS defines the average length of an adult orca as 24 feet (7.315 meters), based on which they require a pool with a minimum horizontal dimension (the diameter of a circular pool of water) of twice that length or 48 feet (14.63 meters) and a minimum depth of 12 feet (3.66 m), giving a minimum volume of 615 m3. A pool of this size may hold two orcas under its rules.[41] Swiss regulations require a larger minimum volume: 400 m2 x 4.0 m deep for two orcas, or 1,600 m3. The Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums (AMMPA) goes further, and recommends 1918 m3 for two orcas.[42] The US exhibitors of captive orcas belong to the AMMPA, but exhibitors in other countries do not.[43]

The tanks in most marine parks are considerably larger than the minimum sizes required by regulations. However, the Miami Seaquarium has been criticized for the small size of the tank holding their sole orca, Lolita, which is less than two of her body lengths wide at any point. Building a new tank would be costly and there is little prospect of replacing the aging Lolita.[44]

Nutrition and medical care

On average, an adult orca in the wild may eat about three to four percent of their body weight daily,[45] or as much as 227 kg (500 lb) of food for a six-tonne male. Their diet in the wild depends on what is available, and may include fish, walruses, seals, sea lions, penguins, squid, sea turtles, sharks and whales.[46] According to SeaWorld, each of their adult orcas receives 140 to 240 pounds of food per day, primarily herring, capelin, salmon and mackerel. To maintain their alertness, the orcas are fed at sporadic intervals throughout the day (as would happen in the wild) and feeding is often combined with training and shows. Each batch of fish is carefully tested to determine its nutritive composition, and each orca's weight, activity and health is carefully monitored to determine any special dietary requirements.[47]

Orcas have been the subject of extensive medical research since their first capture, and much is known about prevention and treatment of the common viral and bacterial infections, including vaccination and use of antibiotics and other medicines.[48] Allometric principles and therapeutic drug monitoring are used to accurately determine the doses and avoid toxicity.[49]


Orcas are intelligent and can be trained to perform spectacular behaviors. Trainers usually work on a one-on-one basis with an individual orca. In addition to training, the trainer is responsible for the health of their orca, preparing food and documenting their health, diet, and behavior. The trainer must patiently build a relationship of trust with the animal as they teach it show behavior, which takes years of hard work.[50] The trainer cannot force an orca to do anything, but must find ways to make participation enjoyable within a relationship based upon mutual respect, including recognition that the orca is one of the ocean's apex predators.[51] All of the behaviors, including jumps and slides, are natural, so training involves teaching the orca to perform the behaviors on the trainer's command. This is done by breaking down the behaviors into simple components and using a system of positive reinforcement, mostly based on giving the orca food when they are successful at each stage, with a gradual buildup to the more complex moves. Secondary reinforcement, things not essential to life, such as play time, tactile rewards and fun games can also be used to reward the animal.[52]

Issues with captivity

The practice of keeping orcas in captivity is controversial, and organisations such as the World Society for the Protection of Animals and the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society campaign against the captivity of killer whales. Orcas in captivity may develop physical pathologies, such as the dorsal fin collapse seen in 60–90% of captive males.

The captive environment bears little resemblance to their wild habitat, and the social groups that the killer whales are put into are foreign to those found in the wild.[1] Critics claim that captive life is stressful due to small tanks, false social groupings and chemically altered water. Captive killer whales have been observed acting aggressively toward themselves, other killer whales, or humans, which critics say is a result of stress.

Disease and reduced lifespan

Captive killer whales have reduced life expectancies,[citation needed] many having only lived into their 20s; however, there are examples of orcas living longer, including many who are over 30 years old, and two (Corky II and Lolita/Tokitae) who are around 40 years of age. In the wild, female orcas can live 80 years (though these are rare occurrences), while males can live to be 60 (though the average for males is roughly thirty).[citation needed]

SeaWorld San Antonio's 14-year-old Taku, born in captivity, died unexpectedly on October 17, 2007. Trainers were notified that Taku had been acting differently a week before his death. The necropsy determined that Taku had died from a sudden case of pneumonia, a common illness among captive orcas.[53][54] It was also discovered that Taku was infected by the West nile virus, transmitted by mosquitos.[55]

The original Namu developed a bacterial infection which damaged his nervous system, causing him to become nonresponsive to people. During his illness he charged full-speed into the wire mesh of his pen, thrashed violently for a few minutes and then died.[56]

Dorsal fin collapse

This male (Tilikum), at SeaWorld Orlando, has a collapsed dorsal fin.

Most male captive killer whales, and some females, have a dorsal fin that is partially or completely collapsed to one side. Several theories exist as to why this happens. A dorsal fin is held erect by collagen, which normally hardens in late adolescence.

Scientists from the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) have reported that "the collapsed dorsal fins commonly seen in captive killer whales do not result from a pathogenic condition, but are instead thought to most likely originate from an irreversible structural change in the fin's collagen over time. Possible explanations for this include: (1) alterations in water balance caused by the stresses of captivity dietary changes, (2) lowered blood pressure due to reduced activity patterns, or (3) overheating of the collagen brought on by greater exposure of the fin to the ambient air."[57] According to SeaWorld's website, another reason for the fin to bend may be the greater amount of time that captive whales spend at the surface, where the fin is not supported by water pressure.[58] The Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society says that dorsal fin collapse is largely explained by captive killer whales swimming in small circles due to the inadequate space in which they have to swim.[59] SeaWorld, however, claims that "Neither the shape nor the droop of a whale's dorsal fin are indicators of a killer whale's health or well-being."[58]

Collapsed or collapsing dorsal fins are rare in most wild populations and usually result from a serious injury to the fin, such as from being shot or colliding with a vessel.[57] After the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill, the dorsal fins of two male resident killer whales who had been exposed to the oil collapsed, and the animals subsequently died. In 2002, the dorsal fin of a stranded killer whale showed signs of collapse after three days but regained its natural upright appearance as soon as the orca resumed strong normal swimming upon release.[57]

Although it has been reported that seven out of 30 (23%) wild adult male killer whales from New Zealand waters have bent dorsal fins,[58][60] this figure includes a variety of dorsal fin abnormalities, including rippled or twisted fins, in addition to simple one-sided collapse.[61] The New Zealand study noted that, in addition to the high prevalence of dorsal fin deformities, two of the 30 adult males in this population also had prolific body scarring that were consistent with bite marks from other killer whales.[61] The prevalence of dorsal fin deformities is 4.7% among adult male orcas in British Columbia and 0.57% in Norway.[61] Amongst the well-studied wild killer whales off the coast of British Columbia, the total rate of dorsal fin collapse is around 1%.[62][63]

Attacks on humans

There have been few confirmed attacks on humans by wild killer whales, and none of them have been fatal.[64] Two recorded instances include a boy charged while swimming in Ketchikan, Alaska and orcas trying to tip ice floes on which a dog team and photographer of the Terra Nova Expedition were standing.[65] In the case of the boy in Alaska, the boy was splashing in a region frequented by harbor seals, leading to speculation that the killer whales misidentified him as prey and aborted their attack. In the case of the Terra Nova expedition, there is speculation that the seal-like barking of the sled dogs may have triggered the killer whales' hunting curiosity.

In 2004 a video purporting to show a jumping orca capsizing a Korean individual's kayak circulated the Internet; according to folklorist David Mikkelson of, this is a fake originally produced as an advertisement for the sports drink Powerade.[66]

Orcas in the wild, however, are much less likely to attack people than are their captive cousins, who have been known to attack either their handlers or intruders. Following one such attack on a trainer in 2006, ABC News reported that killer whales have attacked nearly two dozen people since the 1970s.[67] Studies of killer whales in the wild have identified at least two categories, based on their territorial range. Those living in a limited area, such as Puget Sound or the Strait of Juan de Fuca, are termed "resident" whales, while "transient" whales roam the oceans at will. These "transient" types have to be more aggressive, in order to assert themselves in a wide range of territories and to prey on a variety of different species. This increased aggressiveness does not disappear in captivity.[68] Furthermore, captivity itself could aggravate aggressive behavior, resulting in a "cetacean equivalent of anxiety disorder."[69]

Captive orca attacks on humans seem to fall mostly into the categories of: biting during feeding, ramming in the water, and holding under water. Orcas biting trainers during feeding or shows is generally the mildest form of attack seen, but can escalate to an animal dragging the trainer underwater and holding them there until they lose consciousness and/or drown. Trainers who have had whales ram into them in the water tend to suffer from a range of injuries including internal bleeding, broken bones, ruptured organs, and heart attack.[70]

Tilikum, a bull orca, was captured near Iceland in November 1983 at about two years of age. Tilikum was involved in an incident that resulted in the death of a trainer in 1991. 20-year-old Keltie Byrne, who worked at the park, slipped and fell into the tank with the whales. Tilikum and two other orcas grabbed her in their mouths and tossed her to each other, drowning Byrne. The orcas had never had humans in the water with them before.[71] Tilikum was at the scene of another death on July 6, 1999. A park guest was found floating in Tilikum’s pool, apparently killed by a combination of hypothermia and drowning. The guest had visited SeaWorld the previous day, stayed after the park closed, and evaded security to enter the orca tank.[72] On February 24, 2010, during a noontime performance at Sea World, Orlando, Florida, Tilikum grabbed the ponytail of his trainer, Dawn Brancheau, and pulled her into the water from a poolside platform. Brancheau died shortly thereafter from drowning and traumatic injuries.[73]

This latest incident with Tilikum has reawakened a heated discussion about the effect of captivity on the orca's behavior, and in particular about the future of Tilikum in the context of SeaWorld.[74]

Kasatka, a female orca who was captured off the coast of Iceland in October 1978 at the age of one year, has shown aggression toward humans. Kasatka tried to bite a trainer during a show in 1993, and again in 1999.[75] On November 30, 2006, Kasatka grabbed a trainer and dragged him underwater during their show. The trainer suffered puncture wounds to both feet and a broken metatarsal ligament in his left foot.[76][77][78]

On Christmas Eve of 2009, 29-year old Alexis Martinez of Loro Parque, Tenerife, Spain was crushed to death in the jaws of Keto. After spending two and a half minutes at the bottom of the 12-meter deep main pool, his body was retrieved but he was never able to be revived. The park initially characterized the death as an "accident" and claimed that the body of the young man showed no signs of violence, however the subsequent autopsy report stated that Martinez died due to grave injuries sustained by an orca attack, including multiple compression fractures, tears to vital organs, and the bitemarks of the animal on his body.[79] During the investigation into the death of Alexis Martinez, it came to light that the park had also mischaracterized to the public a 2007 incident with Tekoa, the other male, and claimed it was also an "accident" rather than an attack.[80]

Aggression between captive orcas

One infamous incident of killer whale aggression took place in August 1989, when the dominant female Icelandic orca at SeaWorld San Diego, Kandu V, attempted to "rake" a female newcomer named Corky. Raking is a way orcas show dominance by forcefully scratching at another with their teeth. Kandu charged at Corky, attempting to rake her, missed and continued swimming into the back pool, where she ended up ramming the wall, rupturing an artery in her jaw. The crowd was quickly ushered out, and after a 45-minute hemorrhage, Kandu V died.[81][82]

Kanduke, a male captured from T pod in British Columbia, Canada in August 1975, often fought with a younger Icelandic male named Kotar. The aggression became increasingly serious, leading to an incident in which Kotar bit a part of Kanduke's genitals and caused an infection. It is not known if such serious aggression and injury would occur in the open seas.[83]

Early pregnancy and related issues

Captive orcas often give birth at a much younger age than in the wild, and the young mothers may have difficulty raising their offspring. The calves have a relatively low survival rate.

Corky (II), a female from the A5 Pod in British Columbia, Canada became the first orca to become pregnant in captivity, giving birth on February 28, 1977. The calf died after 18 days. Corky went on to give birth six more times, but the longest surviving calf, Kiva, lived only 47 days.[84] SeaWorld has attracted criticism over its continued captivity of Corky II from the Born Free Foundation, who want her returned to her family in the wild.[85]

An orca named Katina, captured near Iceland at about two years of age in October 1978, became pregnant in early spring of 1984 at SeaWorld San Diego and gave birth in September 1985 to a female named Kalina. Although it was an extremely young age for an orca to become a mother, Kalina was the first orca calf to be successfully born and raised in captivity.[86] In turn, Kalina gave birth at only seven and a half years of age to her first calf, a male named Keet.[25]

Gudrun was an Icelandic female caught in the 1970s. In 1993, she gave birth to Nyar, a female who was both mentally and physically ill, and who Gudrun tried to drown during several shows. Nyar died from an illness a few months later. Gudrun died in 1996 from stillbirth complications.[87][88]

Taima is a transient/Icelandic hybrid female orca born in captivity to Gudrun in 1989.[89] Trainers believe that Gudrun's behavior towards Nyar may have confused Taima, as she may have thought this was how to raise a calf. In May 1998, Taima gave birth to a male calf named Sumar. They were separated when he was about eight months old because of the aggression between them. On one occasion while performing, Taima started biting Sumar and throwing him out of the pool onto the trainer’s platform. She then slid out herself, and continued to bite him. In November 2000, Taima gave birth to a male named Tekoa. The two were separated after only nine months due to aggression between them.[90][91] On March 12, 2007 Taima gave birth to her third calf, Malia. Taima seemed to be a better mother this time, and no notable occurrences of aggression were reported, this may be in part due to the fact, Kalina acted as "aunt" to Malia and helped Taima to look after her. Kalina was a very experienced mother and would often be kept with Malia, while Taima was given time with her mate, Tilikum. Taima died in 2010 during the birthing process of her fourth calf. The calf, fathered by Tilikum, was stillborn.

Kayla, an orca born in captivity, gave birth to her first calf on October 9, 2005, a female named Halyn. Kayla rejected her calf, perhaps because she had never been exposed to a young calf before and did not know how to deal with it. Halyn was moved to a special animal care facility to be hand raised. Halyn died unexpectedly on June 15, 2008.[92]

On October 13, 2010, Kohana, an eight year old female orca, gave birth to a male calf at Loro Parque's "Orca Ocean" exhibit after a four hour labor. The calf weighed in at about 150 kilograms (330 lb), and was two meters (6 ft 7 in) long. Kohana has yet to establish a "maternal bond" with her calf, forcing trainers to take the first steps in hand rearing him. The outcome of this pregnancy was not considered surprising since Kohana was separated from her own mother, Takara, at three years of age, and was never able to learn about maternal care, compounded by the fact that she spent the formative years of her life surrounded by the three other juvenile orcas at Loro Parque.


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External links