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Kayla Next Up For Pregnancy?

March 5, 2012

Last November, I wrote about the pregnancies of SeaWorld orcas Kohana, Kasatka, and Takara (much to the skepticism of some readers). Not sure what my critics are thinking right now, but I can add some detail to my previous post by reporting that I am told that Takara is expected to deliver in December, with Kasatka following in January.

Also, at the risk of inflaming the skeptics again I’ve heard that Kayla is next on the breeding list, and the hope is that she can be impregnated by artificial insemination using a sperm donation from Mundo Marino’s Kshamenk–which reflects the fact that SeaWorld is doing what it can to diversify the limited captive gene pool.

If Kayla is successfully impregnated it will raise questions, given Kayla’s checkered breeding history. She was born at SeaWorld San Antonio to Kenau (sired by Orky) in November 1988. According to her profile, when she was 11 months old she was separated from Kenau, and when she was 2 years old was shipped off to SeaWorld Ohio, eventually returning to SeaWorld San Antonio in 1999.  The profile says that while Kayla has had behavioral issues, she was consistent with husbandry and in November 2001 was artificially inseminated. That AI, however, did not lead to a pregnancy.

From April-November 2003, blood samples showed high progesterone levels indicating a possible pregnancy. The profile notes that Kayla’s behavior changed over this period, and she showed aggressive tendencies toward trainers. However, as winter arrived her progesterone returned to normal levels, and her behavior improved.

Kayla finally became pregnant (for certain) in the summer of 2004 (in the early months of her pregnancy her behavior again became inconsistent, before stabilizing further into her pregnancy). Keet reportedly was the father, and she gave birth to a female calf, called Halyn, in October 2005. As her profile records, she immediately became aggressive with her calf, pushing Halyn against the glass, picking her up in her mouth and throwing her, “fluking” her out of the pool onto the slideout, and then pushing her back in and up against the glass. Trainers got Kayla through a gate to separate mother from calf, and then then removed Halyn from the stadium. Kayla allowed herself to be milked a few times a day for about six weeks. Sadly, Halyn died in June 2008, at 2 years and 8 months old.

Halyn being bottle-fed.

In November 2006 Kayla was transported to SeaWorld Florida. She was pregnant during the transfer (so within a year of giving birth to Halyn, again by Keet) according to the profile. But in April 2007 an ultrasound showed no fetal movement. Shortly after, she delivered a stillborn male calf.

If SeaWorld is successful with an AI of Kayla, it would be her first calf since Halyn. It would be interesting to know whether the training and animal care staff believe that an older, more mature, Kayla would handle a calf better than she handled Halyn, and if so, why. Or it could be that SeaWorld is more confident about its ability to hand-rear a calf, if necessary, based on the success (so far) of raising Adan at Loro Parque despite Kohana’s refusal to nurse and lack of involvement. We’ll have to see how it all plays out.

I last wrote about Kayla here, because she reportedly helped shut down the Believe show that took place before the Dine With Shamu show in which Tilikum killed Dawn Brancheau. Here she is, putting her stamp Kalina is, after Kayla worked her over during another show a few months later.

And speaking of Tilikum, there has been a lot of concern and chatter about the fact that he wasn’t well earlier this year. For what it is worth, I have been told that SeaWorld believes he is on the mend now, but that it was a close-run thing and he has lost a fair bit of weight.

12 Comments leave one →
  1. Marina permalink
    March 5, 2012 3:42 pm

    How did Halyn die in 1988 when she was born in 2005?

    • timzimmermann permalink*
      March 5, 2012 3:43 pm

      Typo. Fixed now. 2008.

  2. March 5, 2012 4:44 pm

    Thanks again Tim for keeping track of these things and bringing them to our attention.
    I wonder how long it will be before Sea World tries to get sperm from wild killer whales. I’m sure that’s only a matter of time and they will be met with strong opposition.

    • March 5, 2012 5:34 pm

      They will never get sperm from a wild killer whale. They will capture them and collect the sperm and put them on display like the others, or just take the sperm and kill the whale, or be a ‘hidden whale’ kept in a tank in the back.

  3. Mary Harrington permalink
    March 5, 2012 5:14 pm

    It’s crazy that SeaWorld, a for-profit company, is allowed to breed these whales in captivity. I’ve spent hundreds, perhaps thousands of hours, watching the Southern Resident orca whales in Haro Strait, just off San Juan Island in Washington State.

    The Southern Residents, the original source of most of the orcas now in captivity, are both an extended family and a species, and are protected by the Endangered Species Act. Right now, there are less than 90 of these whales in the world.

    They don’t exist for our amusement. They didn’t deserve to be slaughtered and imprisoned in the 60s and 70s so that SeaWorld could have an income-generating exhibit to last over generations.

    No one knows why killer whales get aggressive when kept in captivity, but it’s not unreasonable to believe that the stress of captivity, combined with the “slavelike” way their handlers breed them, is at fault.

    In the wild, the Orcas live in family groups over their lifetimes. They form friendships and attachments that scientists are only beginning to document, much less understand. There’s so much we don’t know about them, but one thing we can know is that none of us would trade a life of freedom, family, and friendship to live in a small cell with mates that are chosen for us, forced to do tricks for food and the amusement of another species. Why should we expect them to thrive under these conditions?

  4. Tabby permalink
    March 5, 2012 7:50 pm

    Just so you know, that is Kalina in that video, not Kayla. I am glad that you are posting news about the whales but please dont assume things, because it makes you look like you dont know what you talking about to all the people out there who care about the whales and can actually tell them apart. Maybe you should get someone who can ID the whales to check out your stuff before you post it for the world, who has no idea which whale is who.

    • timzimmermann permalink*
      March 5, 2012 8:25 pm

      Yes, that is Kalina after Kayla worked her over. I should have been clearer about that (the post from which the video comes explains in detail).

  5. March 6, 2012 1:52 am

    thanks for a great report TZ. my heart goes out to these poor whales. they have no mature females to learn from. they’re taken from their mothers, who have no idea how to handle or treat them, and then (if they live) they are impregnated themselves at such a young age…so sad. it seems that as long as SW is permitted to continue breeding, this miserable cycle will go on and on, with more and more devastating results such as poor halyn.

  6. Heather Nielsen permalink
    March 16, 2012 12:05 pm

    So do you know exactly what was and/or is wrong with Tilikum? I remember reading a few days before christmas that he was sick and couldn’t move and was in the medical pool and although I have looked everyday since then, have heard nothing further about him. Any info u might have would be appreciated, THANX =-).

    • timzimmermann permalink*
      March 16, 2012 12:29 pm

      I don’t know any details, sorry. But will certainly post any information if I do hear something.

  7. shamukid permalink
    April 5, 2012 12:37 pm

    Tillikum came out for a training session March 31st, he is getting better.


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