Kyara, the last killer whale born in captivity under SeaWorld’s former orca-breeding program has died.
The three-month old killer whale had an infection and was being treated at the park’s Animal Hospital. But despite best efforts over the last three months and the last three days of critical care, she passed away, SeaWorld announced on Monday.
“Kyara had a tremendous impact on each of her care staff, not to mention all of the guests that had the chance to see her,” said orca trainer Julie Sigman in a statement. “From late nights to early morning, rain or shine, we dedicate our lives to these animals, and this loss will be felt throughout the entire SeaWorld family.”
The official cause of death has not been released yet, but SeaWorld’s veterinary and animal care teams believe she had pneumonia, which they were “aggressively treating.”
The expert veterinary team had Kyara under 24-hour care and watch, any infections were treated with antimicrobials, including antibiotics. She was also hand-fed every day multiple times a day to ensure she received the nutrition she needed.
SeaWorld plans to conduct a detailed post-mortem examination and release an update at a later date.
SeaWorld ended its orca breeding program in March 2016 due to pressure from animal rights protests and shifting public opinion about orcas, dolphins and other animals being held in captivity.
“Blackfish,” a documentary about whales in captivity and featured the SeaWorld killer whale, Tilikum, who killed trainer Dawn Brancheau, generated massive backlashes against SeaWorld.
As a result of the film, several high-profile music artists canceled scheduled appearances at SeaWorld parks, including Willy Nelson who backed out of SeaWorld’s “Bands, Brews & BBQ” concert series, wrote The New York Times.
Tilikum died of bacterial pneumonia in January, according to SeaWorld.
SeaWorld claims that Kyara’s death was not caused by being in captivity, and says pneumonia is the most common cause of mortality and illness among whales and dolphins, both in the wild and in zoological facilities.
Former SeaWorld orca trainer John Hargrove says SeaWorld is insane for continuing to say their orcas are healthy and thriving despite deaths from illness and disease.
SeaWorld has not collected a wild orca in nearly 40 years, and most of its orcas were born in captivity. The orcas have never lived in the wild and could not survive in the ocean, wrote SeaWorld.
SeaWorld introduced “inspiring, natural orca encounters,” instead of “theatrical shows.”
According to the nonprofit, Whale and Dolphin Conservation, worldwide there are 61 orcas in captivity. SeaWorld has 22 of those orcas in its three parks in the United States.