A' Killer' Birth In San Diego

For only the fifth time in the history of Sea World in San Diego, Calif., a killer whale has been born, bringing the park's killer whale population to eight.

Like a proud dad, Robbin Sheets, assistant curator at Sea World tells The Early Show co-anchor Rene Syler that 28-year-old killer whale Kasatka and her baby are doing well.

"She's a great mom and doing fantastic," Sheets says. "They are bonding really well and I've seen lots of nursing already. Everything is going fantastic so far."

Kasatka gave birth at 9:22 a.m. Dec. 21, 2004, in Shamu Stadium's main show pool following a little more than two hours of labor.

The healthy-looking calf instinctively swam to the surface to draw its first breath. It's estimated to weigh between 300 pounds and 500 pounds and measure 6 to 7 feet.

"We had opened the stadium up so the employees could join us in this event. They actually witnessed this," Sheets says. "It was fantastic. We got some excellent footage of this (the birth) from our underwater cameras that are already in the pool, so it's really neat to document this."

Calfs don't stop swimming for quite a while, but because Kasatka is an experienced mother she has already made life easier for herself.

Sheets notes, "She's taught the calf to slow down and stop and rest. Being her third calf, I think she's figured out: I'm not going to chase you around like I did the first two. She's taught this calf to slow down and maneuver around it. It is amazing how advanced she is."

The mother is going to be the first trainer for the calf and will nurse it for up to a year-and-a-half.

Sheets points out that calfs drink about 2 to 4 gallons of milk every day. "Something unique about this milk is it can be 24 to 48 percent fat content. The thick, rich milk helps the baby grow the layer of blubber they need to keep warm. And they gain about two pounds a day - like everybody else this time of year," Sheets joked of the holiday season.

The calf's sex hasn't been determined yet. And a blood sample will have to be drawn to determine the father.

"We haven't picked a name yet," Sheets says. "We're going to come up probably with a list of names and probably let several of the departments in the park vote on a name and even include our passport members and let them vote, too. I'm not sure of the process yet. It hasn't been set out."

For now, mother and calf have been in the main pool. Sheets points out, "We keep them in the main pool because of the size and depth of it. It seems to be best for good nursing. It's also great for us to observe all of the research that's going on right now. We have a couple of observers down by the pool to watch the nursing and the social interaction.

The calf will be introduced to the other whales later on Wednesday. Kasatka's 3-year-old son will get to meet the new addition to the family, Sheets notes, "He's not nursing anymore, but I'm sure he wants to see what is going on. We will move the mother between all of the pools so she can show her calf to the facility. Then we'll keep moving on from there and have milestones every couple of days of new advancements."
  • Tatiana Morales

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