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article imageOp-Ed: Loro Parque in Tenerife welcomes second baby orca rejected by mom

By Elizabeth Batt     Aug 17, 2012 in Environment
Loro Parque in Tenerife, Spain, has announced a new addition to its marine mammal park, a new female baby orca born on August 3. Unfortunately, Kohana, the calf's mother, has rejected her new calf, just as she did her first calf, Adan.
The park announced the birth of the second baby orca born in Spain as "a major milestone for the breeding program," and implied that the birth was an indicator that its marine mammals were healthy and happy.
The happy mantra is a common statement made by marine mammal facilities, even though they mainly use artificial insemination procedures to impregnate their orca.
In 2010, Kohana rejected her first calf, forcing park officials to hand raise the baby orca. In fact, the female orca never even acknowledged Adan when he was born, and showed no interest in the calf at all. But that didn't stop the Deputy Manager of the Loro Parque Foundation, Dr. Javier Almunia, calling Adan's arrival "a major milestone for our breeding programme and ... confirmation of the wellbeing of the orcas who have been at the park since 2006".
Sound familiar?
You can watch Kohana take no interest in Adan after he was born, in this YouTube clip:
The Center for Whale Research, says female orca in the wild, "give birth every three years starting at age 13." Also, according to National Marine Mammal Laboratory, "whales usually give birth every 3 to 10 years."
At ten years of age, Kohana has given birth twice in the space of two years, earlier and more frequently than she would in the wild. SeaWorld has also been criticized inbreeding its orca. Something that would never happen between family members in wild orca.
In February 2006, Loro Parque received four young orca on loan from the marine mammal facility, including Keto and Kohana. All of the orca remain under SeaWorld's control, breeding is authorized by the corporation. SeaWorld's gene pool has been drastically diluted by inbreeding, but to propagate the industry, they need orca.
With orca numbers dwindling across their parks, lack of genetic diversity is taking a toll. Consider the new calf's family tree for example, which is both confusing and alarming.
Bear with me here, as I explain the lineage of this new calf's family.
Keto was the sire to Kohana's first calf Adan. He is also strongly suspected as being the sire of the new calf, although the sire could certainly also be Tekoa.
If the sire is Keto, then take a deep breath, because this is about to get crazy. Kohana's dam is Takara, the half-sister of Keto; and Keto's sire is Kotar, who is also Kohana's grandfather. In short, following family lines, Kohana was bred to her own uncle.
But wait, I'm not through yet.
The new calf, who has been named Vicky, has Kotar as a grandfather on Keto's side, and also as a great-grandfather on Kohana's side, (through Takara). In further stark reality, when push comes to shove, Vicky is blood-related to 21 of 26 SeaWorld whales, the only male orca that Vicky is not related to, is Ulises. Ulises was considered unable to produce offspring although he did sire one calf born in 2011 after artificial insemination.
In short, it seems there is a whole lot of inbreeding going on with SeaWorld's orca. And as with many mammals, be it marine, human, or otherwise, too close of a bloodline can be a precursor for a wide variety of psychological and physical problems. But it also doesn't help the orca when they are mishandled.
Kohana was taken away from her mother at a young age, meaning that she missed out on the experience that would have passed to her through her mother, had she been born in the wild. To see a comparison between maternal care in captivity and maternal care in the wild, read this terrific article by Candace Calloway Whiting.
Kohana's inexperience can clearly seen if you watch the video of Adan's birth, and then watch the newly released Loro Parque video of Vicky's birth. (top).
Kohana dismisses both of her calves, because she simply doesn't know what to do with them.
Even more strange, this original image taken of Vicky or Victoria by Loro Parque shows a cut on the her rostrum. Yet a subsequent photograph, posted by the park, shows that the cut has either miraculously healed or has perhaps been photoshopped out.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
More about loro parque, marine mammal captivity, adan the orca, Seaworld
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