Monday, 7 June 2010

SeaWrold Orca Dies whilst giving birth

A killer whale at SeaWorld Orlando died Sunday from complications that arose while she was giving birth, officials said.

The park said Taima, a 20-year-old orca born at SeaWorld Orlando in 1990, died late in the afternoon, approximately 20 hours after going into labor Saturday evening.

The calf was stillborn.

"Everyone is very saddened by the loss … Everyone is reeling," said Dr. Chris Dold, vice president of veterinary services for Orlando-based SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment. "Ty was a member of the family."

Taima was one of eight
killer whales at SeaWorld Orlando. She had successfully given birth to three calves in the past.

Dold said Taima's fetus was in an unusual position in the birth canal during the delivery process. The orca also experienced a condition in which the placenta was delivered before the fetus itself.

After Taima was unable to deliver her calf, park veterinarians attempted to assist. But SeaWorld said the complications ultimately proved too severe.

Dold said SeaWorld has not had a mother killer whale die while giving birth in more than 25 years. The company, which operates SeaWorld marine parks in Orlando, San Diego and San Antonio, says it has recorded 26 successful killer-whale births since its first in 1985.

Losses of the fetus are more common, although Dold said the rate of killer-whale stillbirths is significantly lower in SeaWorld's parks than it is in the wild. The park considers it a successful birth when the calf has reached one year of age.

"There are lots of these kinds of complications that can occur … We know they happen in the wild, we know they happen in collections," Dold said. "We know they happen everywhere."

SeaWorld says it will not know the definitive cause of Taima's death until a full post-mortem investigation is completed, a process that is expected to take up to six weeks.

A second orca at SeaWorld Orlando is also pregnant. The 32-year-old orca Katina is due to have her seventh calf in late October. Both Taima and Katina were impregnated by
Tilikum, the six-ton orca who drowned trainer Dawn Brancheau earlier this year.

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