Kayla Next Up For Pregnancy?

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. ┬áThe 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.