SeaWorld dolphin is pregnant, despite being on birth control

Commerson' dolphin Ringer set to give birth this month

Ringer the Commerson's dolphin, pictured here, gave birth Sunday, May 21, 2017. Her calf did not survive. (SeaWorld Aquatica)

ORLANDO, Fla. – A dolphin at SeaWorld Orlando is expected to any day in what theme park officials are calling an unexpected pregnancy. 

The Commerson's dolphin, named Ringer, is expected to give birth sometime this month. Her pregnancy came as a surprise because she was on birth control.

"This is an unexpected pregnancy. Ringer is an adult Commerson’s dolphin and was on birth control at the time she conceived. We have put a great deal of planning and thought making preparations to do all we can to set up Ringer and the calf for success. Just as we are with all of the animals here at our parks, we are committed to her care and that of her unborn calf," SeaWorld Orlando said in a statement.

The theme park said Ringer is healthy and her pregnancy seems to to be progressing normally. She is under observation 24 hours a day, officials said. The gestation period for a Commerson's dolphin is 12 months, but it's unclear how long caretakers have known about the pregnancy.

A clear water slide at SeaWorld's Aquatica runs through the habitat that Ringer shares with the park's other dolphins. The breed is known for its black-and-white markings that mimic those of a killer whale.

PETA issued a statement Thursday condemning SeaWorld after news of the dolphin's pregnancy.

"Dolphins in the wild don't need birth control. They can choose their partners, have families when they want to and teach their young to swim and play," the statement read. "Forcing another dolphin to endure a miserable life of swimming circles in a tiny tank is cruel, and it's why PETA is calling on families to stay away from SeaWorld until the park agrees to move all marine mammals to seaside sanctuaries."

SeaWorld announced last year that it would end its orca breeding program amid controversy surrounding keeping the animals captive.