Birth and Care of Young
1. On September 26, 1985 at SeaWorld Orlando, a killer whale gave birth to a female calf, the very first killer whale successfully born and raised in a zoological environment.
2. Baby Shamu thrived in her environment and eventually reached adulthood herself. On February 2, 1993, at SeaWorld San Antonio, she gave birth to the first second-generation killer whale calf. The calf's mother -- the very first killer whale born at SeaWorld -- had her second calf on June 17, 1995 and her third on June 22, 1999.
3. SeaWorld has the largest killer whale breeding program of any park. To date, 13 calves have been successfully born at SeaWorld Orlando, San Diego, and San Antonio.
4. Other successful zoological park births have occurred at Sealand
of the Pacific (British Columbia), Marineland of Canada (Niagara Falls), Kamogawa Sea
World (Japan), and Marineland of Antibes (France).
The gestation period of a killer whale is about 17 months -- the longest known of all cetaceans. Pregnancies followed at the SeaWorld Adventure Parks have ranged from 15 to 18 months.
1. In the Pacific Northwest calving is thought to be bi-modally seasonal, with most births occurring in the spring and fall.
2. In other areas of the world, researchers have seen calves born throughout the year with no statistical evidence for birth seasons.
1. Based on limited data collected from populations at sea and in zoological facilities, a female may bear a calf every three to five years, although a decade may pass before some have another successful birth.
2. As with most marine mammals, usually only one calf is born at a time. Two occurrences of surviving twins have been documented in the wild.
1. Calves are born in the water. The majority of deliveries seen by humans have been tail-first births, although a head-first birth has been observed. The umbilical cord snaps during delivery.
2. The placenta is discharged 8 to 15 hours postpartum, and one recovered at SeaWorld weighed 15.6 kg (34.4 lb.).
1. Size estimates of SeaWorld-born killer whales suggest that calves average 2.6 m (8.5 ft.) in length and weigh between 136 to 181 kg (300-400 lbs.).
2. The light areas of some young killer whales may be creamy white to pale orange rather than white. The color usually turns white within one year, although there are reports of some killer whales in the Antarctic which retain this yellowish color into adulthood.
3. In the first few days after birth, the dorsal fin and tail flukes are flexible and pliable, but gradually stiffen.
1. While most maternal behavior is probably instinctive, first-time mothers are inexperienced at nursing their calves. At SeaWorld and in the wild, first-time mothers may learn how to nurse their young by observing this behavior from other mother whales.
1. A killer whale calf's upper teeth erupt at about two or three months.
2. The average growth rate of the calves in the first year was 10 cm (4 in.) per month. They were approximately 3.2 m (10.5 ft.) at one year of age and had gained 454 kg (1,000 lb.).
3. A calf begins to swim independently of its mother within days of its birth, although the mother stays close to her calf and attentively directs its movements. The baby swims close to its mother and can be carried in the mother's 'slip stream', a type of hydrodynamic wake that develops as the mother swims. This helps the baby swim with much less energy and keep up with the pod.
4. Scientists at the Hubbs-Sea World Research Institute (HSWRI) study vocal development in killer whale calves.
©2002 Busch Entertainment Corporation.