SeaWorld euthanized a 42-year-old killer whale after concerns a bacterial infection could compromise the animal’s quality of life. Kasatka was mother to four, grandmother to six, and great-grandmother to two. She died Aug. 15 around 8:15 p.m., according to SeaWorld’s company blog.
There are now 10 killer whales remaining at the San Diego park. The oldest is 53-year-old Corky. Kasatka’s bacterial respiratory infection, also called lung disease by SeaWorld, was not infectious and posed no danger to the other whales that shared the tanks with her.
This is the third SeaWorld death of an orca this year, The Independent reported. Tillikum, who killed three people in his time at SeaWorld, died in January from the same illness Kasatka had. Kasatka’s granddaughter, 3-month-old Kyara, died at the San Antonio SeaWorld facility just weeks ago.
Tillikum was at the center of CNN’s controversial “Blackfish” documentary. A movie that heavily criticized SeaWorld’s killer whale program, leading SeaWorld headquarters to state that its current killer whale residents would be the last generation SeaWorld would keep at its parks.
“While the loss of Kasatka is heartbreaking for the animal care, veterinary, and training teams, as well as the entire SeaWorld family, our focus is to continue the care of the rest of the orca family at the Orca Encounter facility,” said SeaWorld, in a blog post.
SeaWorld also said Kasatka’s condition was not unique:
“While Kasatka lived a long life, we had been treating her for lung disease for the past several years. This type of respiratory condition has been identified as the most common cause of mortality and illness in whales and dolphins, both in the wild and in zoological facilities.”
SeaWorld planned a memorial at noon Aug. 16, and a presentation about Kasatka at 2:30 p.m. at its new Orca Encounter exhibit.
SeaWorld now has 21 killer whales in its care. Beside the 10 remaining at SeaWorld San Diego, five live at a San Antonio facility, and six are in Orlando. One of Kasatka’s daughters and two of her sons, along with a granddaughter, lived with her at the San Diego park. The rest of her family members live in the two other facilities. The park considered Kasatka the dominant matriarch of SeaWorld’s orcas.
Kasatka was caught in 1978, and then sold to SeaWorld. She performed up to eight shows a day. CNN reported that, after giving birth, she became aggressive, leading to an attack on a trainer in 2006.