A Sea World killer whale went into labor minutes before showtime Friday and delivered her baby to the shouts and cheers of thousands of people who witnessed the marvel of nature.
“It was incredible,” Sea World spokeswoman Rocio Valdez said. “They were clapping. They were cheering. They were even crying. You name it. They were just doing everything.”
The birth of “Baby Shamu” was only the third of a killer whale in the history of the San Diego marine park, said spokesman Dan LeBlanc. One of the previous babies was born dead and the other died a short time after birth of a congenital illness.
Mother Is Candu; Father Is Orky
The only captive-born killer whale to survive an extended period is another “Baby Shamu,” who is at Sea World’s park in Orlando, Fla., and turns 3 years old on Monday.
The mother of the newest killer whale baby is Candu, a 14-year-old whale. The father is Orky, who has been at Sea World nearly two years. Orky was brought to San Diego from Marineland near Los Angeles after Sea World’s parent company, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, acquired and then closed Marineland.
Park officials knew Candu was pregnant but hadn’t announced it yet. LeBlanc said killer whales normally have a 17-month gestation period, and the baby arrived about a month sooner than the park expected.
‘Invited to Watch Mother Nature at Work’
LeBlanc said several thousand people had gathered at Shamu Stadium for the 4:30 p.m. show when Candu went into labor.
“We said the show is canceled. You’re invited to watch Mother Nature at work,” he said. “Nobody left. It’s not something many have seen.”
Candu gave birth to the baby, whose sex is as yet undetermined, in the 5-million-gallon tank normally used for the popular killer
“It was very quick, very natural,” LeBlanc said, adding that the baby was delivered at 5:21 p.m. Mother and baby were moved to another tank, and park officials awaited the first nursing.
The baby was the product of the park’s captive-breeding program. Park officials are hoping to breed killer whales in captivity because opposition by environmentalists halted plans to capture more whales for use in the shows.
“That’s the wonderful thing about this,” LeBlanc said of the latest captive birth. “The 5-million-gallon tank . . . is there for breeding killer whales, and son of a gun, we’re doing it.”