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Vaquita. Photo Thomas Jefferson

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Humpback whale © Christopher Swann

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Orca calf dies in China

Two orcas in captivity

The second calf of an orca known as Cookie, held in captivity at the Shanghai Haichang Ocean Park dolphinarium in China, has died shortly after being born.

It was only in September 2021 that Cookie gave birth to her first calf, which went on display to the public back in June 2022. Cookie was captured from the wild in Russian waters, most likely in 2015. She is estimated to be around eleven years old, so has spent eight years in captivity.

In the wild, female orcas learn how to care for their young in their close-knit family community. Cookie never had this chance, as she was taken from her family far too young and is kept in the dolphinarium with other young orcas who have not been able to gain this important life experience either.

While information is hard to obtain from China, it is thought that there have already been two orca offspring born in another facility, the Chimelong dolphinarium. There is currently a boom in marine parks in China. More than 1,000 whales and dolphins are already kept in concrete tanks in over 80 facilities, and more are being planned or under construction. WDC is a member of the China Cetacean Alliance, together with other NGOs and local partners, to raise awareness and stop these facilities continuing to expand in China in the long term.