One of SeaWorld’s last surviving killer whales to come from the wild, 42-year-old Kasatka died on Tuesday, August 15th. This makes the third orca death for SeaWorld this year, after the July death of a 3-month-old calf and the January passing of the controversial documentary Blackfish‘s subject Tilikum.
Kasatka spent years suffering from lung disease, for which SeaWorld San Diego’s veterinary staff had been giving the whale specialized treatments. Recently, a loss of appetite and decreasing overall health lead SeaWorld to make the decision to euthanize her. The choice was made, according to SeaWorld, to “prevent compromising her quality of life.”
The stated cause of death for each of the three whales to have passed this year were a respiratory bacterial infection (Kasatka); an infection, likely pneumonia (Kyara), and bacterial pneumonia (Tilikum).
Kasatka began her life under SeaWorld’s custody in 1978, when she was caught off the coast of Iceland and brought to SeaWorld’s San Diego park. Referred to as the matriarch of her pod, Kasatka was the mother of four, grandmother of six, and great grandmother of two. The deceased 3-month-old calf, Kyara, was her granddaughter.
An incident with Kasatka made international news in 2006, when she dragged a trainer underwater and held him for just under a minute during a show, breaking his foot.
SeaWorld currently has a total of 21 killer whales still living at its three parks: 10 in San Diego, 5 in San Antonio, and 6 in Orlando. The deceased Kyara was the last calf born as a result of SeaWorld’s no longer operational orca breeding program, and new whales are not expected to be added.
Kristi Burtist, an orca behaviorist for SeaWorld, gave her thoughts on the loss of Kasatka saying,
“Today, I lost a member of my family. I have spent the past several years with Kasatka and was truly blessed to be part of her life. Although I am heartbroken, I am grateful for the special time we had together and for the difference she has made for wild orcas by all that we have learned from her. I adored Kasatka and loved sharing her with millions of people. I will miss her very much.”
Image: SeaWorld Cares