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I cannot imagine a trip to Seaworld without a visit to the amazing Shamu stadium to see the killer whales, or orcas, perform. This enormous arena can seat up to 5, 500 people, and is the venue for the spectacular and very popular shows, ‘Believe’ and ‘Shamu Rocks’.

But it is interesting to know how the first Shamu got her name. In fact the name, Shamu, is actually a stage name, and it can be used for any of the adult killer whales which perform in the shows. The name Shamu can be used for both male, or female, killer whales, and actually means ‘friend of Namu’ or She-Namu.

The first female orca to be captured was given the name Shamu, and it was intended that she should be a companion to a male orca called Namu, who lived at a Seattle Aquarium. However, the two whales did not get on, so Shamu was eventually leased to SeaWorld in San Diego, who purchased her in 1965. She was probably around 5 years old when she was captured off Puget Sound, Washington State, in 1965. She was a popular performer in the spectacular SeaWorld shows, and eventually died in 1971. Sadly, she became infamous when, in 1971, she attacked Annette Eckis, a SeaWorld secretary who was riding Shamu at the park in San Diego, as a publicity stunt. She slipped off and Shamu grabbed her leg in her mouth. She eventually let go but Annette needed 100 stitches in her leg. One theory is that because Annette was wearing an ordinary swimming costume instead of the normal wet suit this made Shamu uneasy. As well as the name, Shamu, there are also Namu and Ramu.

The first surviving orca born in captivity was called Kalina. She was born on September 25th, 1985. Her parents were Katina and Wilson. Previously all orca calves born in captivity had either been stillborn or had died within two months of their births. Kalina herself gave birth to a male calf called Keet on February 2nd, 1993. Keet’s first calf was called Kalina, and she was born on December 21st, 2004. Since then Kalya and Keet have become the parents of a female calf, Halyn, who was born on October 9th, 2005. Sadly she died unexpectedly just 3 years later, weighing in at 1900 pounds, and measuring over 10ft in length. She had been rejected by her mother and had been hand raised, so her loss was greatly felt by the staff at SeaWorld, San Antonio.

At SeaWorld, Orlando, there are many orcas who perform, but these include Kalina, Taima, Malia Kayla, Takara, Trua, Katina, Tilikum and Nalani. Although the first Shamu died many years ago, her name lives on and she will never be forgotten.

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Page added on: 30 December 2008
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