December 23, 2004:
Kasatka of SeaWorld San Diego gave birth to a female calf. Here’s the press release:
“SeaWorld San Diego is proud to announce the birth of a baby killer whale, born at approximately 9:22 a.m. Dec. 21, 2004. Kasatka, a 28-year-old killer whale, gave birth to a healthy-looking calf at Shamu Stadium, under the watchful eyes of SeaWorld’s zoological team members. The birth marks the fifth killer whale to be born at SeaWorld San Diego and the 19th born in the SeaWorld family of parks.
After a nearly 18-month gestation, Kasatka’s calf, estimated to weigh between 300 and 350 pounds and measure between 6 to 7 feet, was born in Shamu Stadium’s main show pool following a little more than two hours of labor. Moments later, the baby whale instinctively swam to the water’s surface to take its first breath. The park’s zoological team members report the mother and baby appear to be healthy, but as with any newborn, the first few days are critical. The calf’s sex is yet to be determined (note: it’s a female). The newborn, which brings the park’s killer whale population to eight, is the result of natural breeding (the recent two births at SeaWorld San Diego were a result of artificial insemination). The sire of the calf will be determined once a blood sample can be obtained from the calf.”
Note: Apparently the father is Keet!
Here’s a video of the birth!
December 12, 2004:
Russia has set the marine mammal capture quotas for 2005. Fortunately this year no orcas were captured, next year the Russian government allows the capture of up to six orcas.
December 1, 2004:
Valentin of Marineland plays a part in the new Hollywood movie “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou”, starring Bill Murray as an unconventional marine expert.
November 6, 2004:
Marineland Canada has lost a second killer whale in less than three months. Hudson, a six-year-old orca, was found dead in Friendship Cove on Oct. 20., the theme park announced. The death came just two months after Neocia, a 12-year-old killer whale, was found dead in her pool. After autopsy a meningitis was determined as the cause of death.
Note: That’s the fourth calf that Kiska has lost, leaving her only with little Athena.
September 22, 2004:
Kyu died of bacterial pneumonia on September 18th at Nanki Shirahama Adventure World, Japan, after 7,5 years in captivity.
He was known to suffer from a weak immune system and ulcers. Kyu was in the infamous Taiji capture in February 1997, which created a public outcry. The only survivors from this capture are Asuka and Ku. Two other whales died soon after the capture. After Kyu’s death and Ran’s death in August, Nanki Shirahama Adventure World is now left with just one orca, Goro from Japan.
September 12, 2004:
Kiska’s calf of August 2004 has now officially been named Athena at Marineland Canada. Maybe because of the Olympic Games at Athens this summer?
August 29, 2004:
Ran died at Nanki Shirahama Adventure World, Japan, after almost 15 years in captivity. According to the autopsy she died of pneumonia from microorganism, blood poisoning and acute gastritis.
Three days ago, she had given birth to a premature calf that died yesterday of a broken skull. The gender of the calf is not known for sure, but assumed female. Ran was captured off Iceland in October 1989, together with three other whales. Among them were Ai and Yamato/Tanouk, who died in 1995 and 2000, respectively. The only surviving whale of that last capture in Icelandic waters is Sharkane at Marineland Antibes in France. At Nanki Shirahama Adventure World there are now just two male orcas left, Goro from Japan and Kyu from the Taiji capture in 1997.
August 10, 2004:
Kiska gave birth to a female calf on August 8th at Marineland Canada. This was her fifth pregnancy. Kiska is also the mother of:
- Hudson, a male born in 1998
- Nova, a male born in 1996 and deceased in 2001
- Kanuck, a male born in 1994 and deceased in 1998
- An unnamed male calf born in 1992 who lived only for 62 days
Marineland Canada has been in contact with SeaWorld regarding a cooperation on artificial insemination and possible exchange of semen to widen the small gene pool.
Here’s a news report on the birth:
“NIAGARA FALLS – The newest attraction at Marineland is a 200-pound, nearly six-foot long newborn. The yet-unnamed female killer whale calf swam into the world just after 7 a.m. Sunday, the first female born to mother Kiska and father Kandu. “It’s always exciting for us,” said Ann Marine Rondinelli, spokeswoman for Marine-land. “For some of the newer staff members, they ran out to see it and it was the highlight of their day.” She said the good news was especially welcome after a 12-year-old killer whale, Neocia, died at the park last week.
The newborn calf has also been causing a stir among Marineland visitors, who were told about the birth as they came into the park. Throngs of guests gathered in front of the Friendship Cove tank, where Kiska and her calf swam side-by-side, exclaiming to each other and taking photos. “It’s very exciting,” said Lina Kirilenko, who was visiting from Oshawa. She said she had been to the park several times and this was the first time she’d seen a whale that young. “It was a big surprise for us.” Marine mammal supervisor Dave Elliott said staff had been tracking the pregnancy throughout the 17-month-long gestation period. “We had a good idea when this was coming,” he said. “We just separated her from the other animals Friday.” He said the birth went smoothly and the calf seems to be doing well. She’s being monitored 24 hours a day to make sure her breathing rates and nursing habits are progressing well, and Elliott said so far: “She’s right on track.” He said she nurses about four times an hour, for 20 to 30 seconds at a time, which is a sign that she’s very strong for such a young calf. She’ll remain isolated in the tank with her mother for the time being. “We’ll probably mix her with the other whales, or with another female, a little later on once she has finished nursing,” he said. “But this tank is great to watch her.”
Female killer whales can grow to be about 20 feet long and weigh 8,000 pounds. The young calf will also grow darker as she ages, losing the greyish tinge to her black colouring. Elliott said this is the first killer whale calf born at the park since Nootka gave birth last winter. That calf didn’t survive after a difficult birth. The youngest killer whale at the park until now, the newborn’s older brother Hudson, was born six years ago.”
By Stephanie MacLellan, Niagara Falls Advance
August 9, 2004:
Six Flags’ orca pursuit not black and white
“U.S.-backed whale importation would violate Argentine export law
Six Flags Marine World in Vallejo is trying to import a captive Argentine orca, angering marine-mammal advocates who say the whale should swim free. Six Flags revealed its intention to apply for a federal application to import “Kshamenk,” a male orca captured in 1992 in Patagonia, in a July 14 letter to the National Marine Fisheries Service, the federal agency that oversees the international trade in whales, dolphins and other marine mammals. “Shouka,” a female killer whale, is already in residence at Vallejo. Six Flags officials said they hope Kshamenk and Shouka will become paramours and, ultimately, parents. Joe Meck, vice president and general manager, said it is also likely Kshamenk will participate in the amusement park’s orca show, which features the black-and-white, multi-ton predators performing various stunts. Meck said Kshamenk would be brought in to the United States on loan from Mundo Marino, the Buenos Aires aquarium that would continue to own the whale. “This continues our long-standing program of scientific research and study,” Meck said. “Our primary goal is breeding these whales. We want to learn more about them.”
Mark Berman, the assistant director of the International Marine Mammal Project for Earth Island Institute in San Francisco, said the whale should be released to the open seas. “This is a captive whale, taken from his family group when he was young,” said Berman. “It’s irresponsible for Six Flags to continue the insidious trade in orcas. It’s time for Kshamenk to go back to his family, not to a tank in the U.S. thousands of miles from his home.” Kshamenk originally swam with a population of orcas that hunt elephant seals and sea lions off Patagonia. The group has evolved a singular technique for taking prey: They sidle next to pinniped rookeries on gently sloping beaches, then lunge suddenly out of the water to snare unsuspecting seals. They sometimes extend almost a full body length out of the water and must shimmy backward on the sand to regain the sea. Their kills have been documented on video and have been widely aired. Kshamenk was a juvenile whale, between 4 and 6 years old, when he was stranded on a beach during an attempted kill. At that point, he should have simply been returned to the sea, said Berman. Instead, he was transported to Mundo Marino. “He is wild and still retains his predatory instincts,” said Berman. “He is a perfect candidate for reintroduction to the wild.”
Meck said the Argentine government took sworn affidavits that Kshamenk was terminally stranded. “Mundo Marino rescued and rehabilitated him,” Meck said. “A number of whales have died from similar strandings down there.” Six Flags applied for permits from the fisheries service and the Argentine government to import Kshamenk for its Cleveland, Ohio, park in 2001. The fisheries service granted the permit, but the Argentine government refused, citing a law that forbids the exportation of the nation’s wildlife. Six Flags sold the Cleveland park to an “animal-free” amusement company called Cedar Fair in early 2004. Shouka went to Vallejo in May — despite Earth Island’s efforts to get her released to the wild. The original fisheries service permit for Kshamenk expired in May. If the new permit is granted, it will differ from the original permit primarily in Kshamenk’s final destination: Vallejo rather than Cleveland. Berman said he is puzzled by Six Flags’ move, because the Argentine law against orca exportation is still in effect. “I’m curious how they plan to get around that,” he said. Meck said he was unaware of the Argentine law, “but I’m sure our attorneys are working on it.”
Jennifer Skidmore, a biologist with the fisheries service’s permit division, said the importation of orcas for public display purposes is allowed under the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act. That’s the critical legislation, Skidmore said, that determines whether an importation application will be approved. “We can’t issue any permit that violates U.S. law,” Skidmore said, “and the applicant is also required to fulfill any foreign export obligation.” If the service approves Six Flags’ application, said Skidmore, a 30-day public comment period will ensue, followed by a final agency decision.”
By Glen Martin, San Francisco Chronicle
August 3, 2004:
Neocia has sadly died at Marineland Canada
“5th whale in 5 years dies at Marineland
Marineland veterinarians Monday were trying to determine what caused the death of a 12-year-old killer whale – the fifth whale to die at the amusement park in less than five years. Neocia, a female show whale who was born at Marineland, died early Sunday before the park opened, said Marineland spokeswoman Ann Marie Rondinelli.
The whale had been recently examined by veterinarians after she appeared to lose her appetite and wasn’t “acting normally,” Rondinelli said. But blood tests showed nothing out of the ordinary, she added. Neocia had a life expectancy of at least 25 years, officials said. “Marineland staff members are deeply saddened by this outcome,” Rondinelli said.
There are now four killer whales and a score of beluga whales at the 42-year-old tourist attraction. The first whale death was in December 1999, when a female beluga died of liver failure caused by parasites the animal had picked up while still in the wild. Park veterinarians said the whale, who was quite old, would have died whether she lived in the marine park or in her natural habitat. The second death, about 10 weeks later, was a 31/2-year-old Orca whale (Malik) who was born with a deficient immune system and had been on medication most of her life, park officials said. Veterinarians said she would have died sooner if she had been born in the wild. In August 2000, a young female beluga died of a brain hemorrhage after a petting session. Two years later, a killer whale calf (Algonquin) born at Marineland died unexpectedly.
“None of these whale deaths were caused by, or were the result of, neglect or poor medical care,” Rondinelli said. “We think of these animals as family and make every effort to ensure that they receive the best of care.” Marineland has also been a place of birth. In July 2002, two beluga whales were born in the park’s Friendship Cove within a week of each other. The 150- and 170-pound baby whales were the first belugas to be born at the amusement park since the mammals took up residence there eight years ago.”
Buffalo News, Niagara Falls, Ont.
By Bill Michelmore, News Niagara Bureau
Note: The article states that it was the fifth death in less than five years. Actually it’s the seventh death in that period of time, not counting a miscarriage by Nootka 5 in the winter of 2001/2002. Missing in the list above are five year old male Nova, born to Kiska on 1996/11/06, who died on 2001/08/20, and this year’s female calf of Nootka 5, born on 2004/04/07, that died sometime this May (Marineland Canada never gave the cause nor the exact date of death).
Additional note: Neocia had a miscarriage before she died of a bacterial infection. The father of the calf Neocia was carrying was in fact her own father Kandu 7. She and Kandu mated over winter 2003-2004 and she was around 6 months into the pregnancy when she miscarried.
July 27, 2004:
SeaWorld San Antonio Killer Whale Trainer Has Close Call
Whale Slams Trainer Repeatedly During Show
“SAN ANTONIO — A killer whale performance at SeaWorld came to an abrupt end Friday when one of the giant marine mammals slammed his trainer underwater repeatedly.
No one was injured in the incident involving the killer whale, named Kyuquot, and his trainer, Steve Aibel. “It looked like Ky lost a little bit of focus,” Aibel said in an exclusive interview with KSAT 12 News.
Aibel has trained with Ky for the past 10 years, and said he was caught off guard by Ky’s behavior. “Seventeen years of training with animals and I’ve never had an experience like that,” he said.
At first, it seemed like part of the show, but then Ky began diving right over Aibel. As soon as Aibel would come up for air, he was slammed back underwater. Trainers rushed to the side of the tank, there was little they could do. “I wasn’t frightened,” Aibel said. “I think that by being calm throughout the process — that helped to calm (Ky) down.”
Aibel went back to work with Ky Monday, and credited patience and training with helping to resolve the situation. He wasn’t sure what set Ky off, but said that the killer whale was near breeding age, which might be to blame for the erratic behavior.”
Watch a video of the incident.
July 27, 2004:
Kalina’s calf of February 2004 has now officially been named Skyla at SeaWorld Orlando. Skyla has the meaning Learned One in Celtic and Sheltering in Dutch or Greek.
May 21, 2004:
Nootka 5’s female calf, that was born on April 7th this year, did not survive the first weeks. That is the sixth time that Nootka 5 has lost a calf, including a miscarriage and Splash’s transfer to SeaWorld San Diego! Only Neocia is still with her. Unfortunately there is no official statement given from Marineland Canada about the exact date or cause of death.
May 21, 2004:
Here is a fascinating study published by Dr Todd Robeck, veterinarian at SeaWorld Texas, on the development of artificial insemination technology in killer whales. Especially the development of the procedures is quite interesting.
April 26, 2004:
SeaWorld has swapped five whales among their parks in Orlando, San Antonio and San Diego.
Keet, a male born in 1993, went to San Antonio, Texas. Takara, a female born in 1991, and her daughter Kohana, born in 2002, went to Orlando, Florida. Especially for Takara there could be a hard time ahead. Having to establish a relationship with another dominant female, Katina in this case, has proven to be difficult in the past. Fortunately Katina is among the rather relaxed dominant females unlike Kasatka, for instance. This is the first time that Kasatka and her daughter Takara have been separated, something that doesn’t occur in the wild where mother and offspring stay together for life.
Two more whales, Tuar, a juvenile male born in 1999, and Tekoa, another juvenile male born in 2000, have been moved from Orlando to San Antonio and are now separated from their mothers, too.
This move might be in preparation of the planned move of several whales to a new facility, Loro Parque in Tenerife, Spain. According to several sources, four young males will be sent on loan to Loro Parque in 2005/06: Keet, Keto, Tuar and Tekoa. And you’ve guessed it right: the recent move put those whales conveniently together at SeaWorld San Antonio!
According to observers especially at Orlando the whales seemed to be in a state of shock and were obviously stressed. The SeaWorld managers have demonstrated once again that they simply do not care about the nature of the animals when there’s profit to be made.
April 21, 2004:
Orca settles into new home in Vallejo
“Shouka the killer whale played with her old floating toys and enjoyed her familiar fish meals Tuesday after jetting in the night before to become the first orca in four years at Six Flags Marine World Park. The 16-foot-long new arrival from Cleveland gets until the weekend to explore her new pools before going on public display. She gets another three or four weeks before her trainers try to coax her into performing in shows. “We’re going to do it nice and slowly. We want her to become happy in her new home,” said Drew Delgross, an animal trainer supervisor who made the nine-hour trip from Cleveland to Vallejo by truck and jet Monday. Besides, Delgross said, no one tells a 4,300-pound orca what to do. “You ask a killer whale to perform behaviors. You don’t order it. If a killer whale doesn’t want to do something, it won’t.”
Shouka’s arrival has upset animal rights groups who contend that life in a tank is cruel, boring and demeaning to the top predator in the sea. Marine World employees disagree, saying they work hard to provide stimuli for the orca and to care for her. Delgross leaned over a tank Tuesday, rubbed Shouka on her side, and then fed her some smelt. “Shouka is very smart. She’s as smart as any killer whale I’ve worked with,” said Delgross, an animal trainer for 18 years.
Early Monday morning in Cleveland, Shouka began her trip from a Six Flags park that was closing its marine exhibits after being sold. Crews lifted Shouka by crane onto a sling in a tank devised to keep her wet but her blowhole above water so she could breathe. Animal handlers trucked her to an airport and loaded her aboard a 747 cargo jet for the ride to Mather Field in Sacramento.
Four dolphins, three sea lions, three otters, anteaters and several hundred smaller animals, spiders and insects also flew in containers on board to reach their new home in Vallejo. “It was a flying ark,” said Jeff Jouett, a spokesman for Marine World in Vallejo. Delgross said containers that keep out light calmed the animals during the trip. “Shouka is a good traveler. She made the trip without a peep,” he said. Delgross also accompanied Shouka two years ago when she flew to Cleveland from her birth place at Antibes, France.
Marine World will put a dolphin in Shouka’s living area as a buddy, but that would be a temporary arrangement if the aquatic park gets its way. Marine World operators are looking for a male orca to keep her company and produce offspring. Only about 50 killer whales are in captivity at parks worldwide, and political pressure has all but stopped capture of wild orcas for parks. Marine World would like to import a 13-year-old male named Kshamenk from a park in Argentina, Jouett said. The U.S. government approved a permit to import the orca, but the Argentine government has not approved an export permit so far, Jouett said. “It’s an ongoing effort,” Jouett said. “We would like Shouka to have a mate. We would like to have baby whales.” Like Shouka, the whale in Argentina is the only killer whale in his park. Marine World in Vallejo previously had two killer ones, but the last one died in 2000 of disease.”
By Denis Cuff, CONTRA COSTA TIMES
Note: here’s a page with some pictures and a video of the move.
April 19, 2004:
Nootka 5 gave birth to a female calf two weeks ago at Marineland Canada. This was her seventh pregnancy. Nootka 5 is also the mother of:
- Splash, a male born in 1989
- Neocia, a female born in 1992
- Malik, a female born in 1996 and deceased in 2000
- An unnamed female born in 1998 who lived only for 11 days
- Algonquin, a male born in 1999 and deceased in 2002
Nootka 5 had a miscarriage in winter 2001-2002. The exact date of birth has not been told yet.
April 10, 2004:
Loro Parque, situated in Tenerife, Spain, was supposed to start keeping killer whales this year. Apparently these plans have been delayed until 2005 or even 2006 because of financial strains. Contact had already been made with SeaWorld, which agreed to sent 4 whales to Tenerife, 2 from Orlando and 2 from San Diego. Both SeaWorld facilities are facing problems because of the increasing number of whales. Trainers from Loro Parque have been at SeaWorld to learn how to work with the whales and trainers from SeaWorld are supposed to join the whales to Tenerife for the first few months. Construction of the new pool will not be at Loro Parque itself but near a waterpark called Octopus at the other side of the island..
March 21, 2004:
Killer whales may return in revamp of Ocean Park
Chairman Allan Zeman also says there are plans for a train tunnel running through the site’s headland
CARRIE CHAN and ELAINE WU, South China Morning Post
Killer whales may return to Ocean Park as part of the tourist attraction’s redevelopment plans, according to chairman Allan Zeman. Speaking at a tourism symposium at the convention centre, Mr Zeman also said that there were plans to construct a tunnel through the park’s headland, with a small train linking both sides of the attraction. Mr Zeman was detailing plans for an ambitious redevelopment – to be undertaken between 2006 and 2009 – which were initially unveiled last month. The plans also include building two hotels and upgrading shops and restaurants. He said that adding killer whale and penguin shows were also on the cards. Mr Zeman did not say how many whales the park would seek and did not elaborate. The park’s last killer whale, Hoi Wai, died at the age of 22 in 1997.
Pauline Taylor, executive director of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said she would be against Ocean Park bringing in a killer whale from the wild. But if it was one already in captivity that could not be released into the wild it would be more acceptable. “Obviously, we do not agree with wild creatures being placed in an exhibition park,” she said. “So I’d like to know where the whale is coming from. “I know Ocean Park is a very responsible organisation and would be looking into this very carefully before they enter a whale into the centre. “Every animal needs a home. If there’s a reason behind why the killer whale is looking for a home and there is not another suitable place for it then I can understand why Ocean Park is considering opening its whale pool again.”
Mr Zeman said that despite the redevelopment plans, Ocean Park executives did not anticipate being challenged by the opening of Disneyland on Lantau next year. He said Ocean Park would benefit rather than suffer, adding that both parks had different markets. “The opening of the Disney theme park will attract more people. Disney is the best name brand but Ocean Park is a home-grown park. We would focus on enhancing the animal side,” he said. Mr Zeman said the train linking the park’s two sides would be a fun ride for visitors rather than just a transportation tool, adding it could complement the cable car system that had operated for more than 20 years. “We want to make the [hill’s] headland more user-friendly. The headland is our great asset but it has been difficult for us operationally,” he said. Mr Zeman also said he was positive that the park would have a MTR station on the planned Hong Kong Island South line. “The MTRC will submit its South Island line proposal by the end of March and Ocean Park will be one of the stations,” he said. “Residents can park their cars at Ocean Park and go to Central by MTR. The congestion problem in Central will be less serious.”
March 12, 2004:
Shouka of Six Flags Adventure World of Ohio will have to move again:
“Amusement park operator Six Flags Inc. is selling its theme park in northeast Ohio along with seven of its eight European parks in separate deals that will bring in $345 million.
The owners of Cedar Point amusement park in Sandusky, Ohio, will take over Six Flags Worlds of Adventure near Cleveland. Six Flags, with 39 theme parks nationwide, has had two straight years of attendance drops while its debt has grown to $2.3 billion. The deals announced Wednesday will allow it to pay down its debt and focus on its North American parks, chairman Kieran Burke said. “It’s definitely a start in the right direction for Six Flags because it allows them to reduce that massive debt,” said Gary Slade, publisher of the trade magazine Amusement Today. “They unloaded two underperforming areas of the chain,” said Slade, who added that it wouldn’t be surprising to see Six Flags sell a couple more parks. Oklahoma City-based Six Flags said it will sell the European parks for $200 million to a private investment firm. Cedar Fair LP will pay $145 million for the combined thrill ride and animal park, along with an adjacent hotel and campground.
Cedar Fair plans to shut down the animal park and concentrate on the coasters and other rides. Six Flags will retain ownership of all animals at the park and transfer them to its other parks.
Cedar Fair said the Six Flags park in northeast Ohio will be renamed Geauga Lake, the name of the park when Six Flags bought it in 1995. Six years later, it bought the neighboring SeaWorld of Ohio for $110 million and combined the two.”
By John Seewer, Associated Press Writer
February 11, 2004:
Following seven hours of labor, Kalina, an 18-year-old killer whale, gave birth on Monday, February 9th, at 10:10pm EST to a 7-foot long, 350-pound female calf in SeaWorld Orlando’s Shamu Stadium main pool. SeaWorld officials express cautious optimism about the health of both animals. This is the fourth calf for the 6,000-pound mother, who also had a stillbirth in 1997.
A news story including a video can be found here!