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On September 22, 2018, Morgan, a 10-year-old rescued killer whale at Loro Parque, gave birth to a healthy female calf. Although Morgan proved to be a good mother and had exhibited signs of bonding with her newborn daughter, she was not producing enough milk to meet her nutritional needs. So, in response to that concern, the Loro Parque staff stepped in to hand-rear her. The staff consisted of a team of trainers, experts, veterinarians, and marine animal care specialists who continue to monitor the yet-to-be-named calf around the clock on a daily basis and so far, these efforts are proving to show positive signs of her thriving.
The signs of her thriving may include swimming around without assistance and displaying playful behavior around her trainers.
While the Loro Parque staff would have liked to have seen Morgan be able to nurse her own calf, since she was unable to produce enough milk, the health and well-being of the calf became the team's top priority. This is because out in the wild if orca mothers are unable to produce enough milk, there would be a good chance that their calves would not survive the first year of life. In fact, there are a number of reasons why some animals may not able to produce enough milk for their young. To begin with, like having a pre-existing health issue, the mother having deficiencies in iron or protein, lack of intake of certain foods or water, and so on. The same thing can also be said with people.
How is the formula made?
The Loro Parque staff currently feeds Morgan's calf a special formula that is specially made for killer whale calves in human care. This formula is made with milk, blended fish, various vitamins, commercial formula, and other ingredients that are all mixed the milk that Morgan is able to produce. It was developed by the park's veterinarians and nutritionists, who have had previous experience with hand rearing the previous two calves who were born at the park. Adan, the first killer whale to be born at Loro Parque in 2010, was hand-reared after his mother, Kohana, rejected him shortly after birth. Today, he is now seven years old and has since intergraded into the pod. He was fed the same formula that Morgan's calf currently receives and is proving to work miracles on her.
Why is she not with her mother?
Like I have said before, the training staff at Loro Parque would have liked to have seen Morgan be able to nurse the calf, but there are times when that may not be a great option when she unable to produce enough milk to sustain her. As a safety precaution in regards to Morgan, her calf, and the staff involved in hand rear her, the pair had to be separated and placed in two separate pools that are adjacent to each other. Yet, despite this separation, both mother and calf showed no signs of distress and remain relaxed during feeding sessions. It is expected that they will be reunited when the calf is completely weaned off from nursing.
Currently, due to her rapid progress, the team has started to spread her feeding sessions to around every six hours with the trainers no longer having to present with her 24 hours a day.
Who is her father?
While there are rumors that suggest that Keto, the oldest killer whale in the Loro Parque family, might be the father of Morgan's calf, there is still a possibility that Tekoa, the second oldest member of the pod, might be her father as well. I have personally spoken to a friend who has been closely monitoring the Loro Parque family and she has suspected that Tekoa may more likely be the calf's father than Keto. This is due to her observation of photographs of her eye patches and how they were similar to Tekoa's. While Morgan has been seen with both male orcas before she became pregnant, only a blood test will confirm the true identity of the calf's father, regardless of rumors and conflicting reports that are focused on the matter.
She's three-months-old and is already involved with research.
Recently, Loro Parque has teamed up with the University of Southern Denmark to study when young killer whales, begin to develop the ability of echolocation. As it turns out, Morgan's calf is currently taking part in the first set of experiments. The reason for the research is to understand how and when does echolocation, which is known as the ability to locate foreign objects through a series of sound wave reflections, develop in killer whales and how this understanding may one day be able to help save troubled wild orca populations that are affected by noise pollution since there is no information on when killer whale calves develop echolocation. In fact, having an orca calf in human care can provide researchers a huge number of opportunities to learn about a thriving orca community in a marine zoological setting by learning how the calf adopts and uses communication sounds of the pod she was born into. In addition, a research group that is based in Norway will also team up with Loro Parque to learn more about identification markings on killer whale calves, which will, down the road, help them be able to track down these animals in a more accurate fashion.
When will she be named?
A lot of people are wondering when Morgan's calf finally going to have a name. Well, the answer is that most facilities usually wait about two to three months before naming a new orca calf. Researchers who study orcas out in the wild usually wait up to two years before giving a calf a name. This is because the survival rate for killer whale calves is a 50/50 chance, so it does make sense for Loro Parque to hold off on naming their newest calf. However, from what I have been hearing lately, they might announce her name around Three Kings Day, a traditional Spanish holiday in which, according to medieval tradition, the three kings arrive in Bethlehem to deliver gifts to the newborn Jesus Christ. However, I would take it with a grain of salt until an official announcement has been made by Loro Parque itself.
For now, however, we can all be thankful that Morgan's calf continues to thrive thanks to tireless efforts of the Loro Parque staff.