SeaWorld’s last baby orca, bred in captivity under the amusement park’s orca breeding program, died on Monday in San Antonio. Three-month-old Kyara’s death is still being investigated and experts have yet to determine the exact cause of death.
SeaWorld resident killer whale Takara gave birth to Kyara in April this year. Park officials believe that Kyara may have died from pneumonia. Tilikum, one of SeaWorld’s famous orcas, who was featured in the documentary, Blackfish, also suffered the same fate.
Veterinarians and park staff fought hard to help the baby orca battle her illness, the official press release stated, but Kyara didn’t make it. Experts are still looking into Kyara’s death and SeaWorld said that it would take several weeks to complete the post-mortem examination.
Although SeaWorld’s baby orca contracted an infection, the park reassured that the illness was not caused by Kyara’s state of captivity. However, some marine mammal experts say that the baby orca’s living conditions contributed to the decline of her health, and ultimately her death.
“I think pneumonia is a fairly common cause of death because they are living in a constant state of low-level stress,” Naomi Rose, a marine mammal scientist explained to LiveScience.
Rose, who is working at the Animal Welfare Institute in Washington, D.C. told the publication that killer whales need their social network, especially when females give birth. Without it, the sea animals experience low-level stress, which then makes them prone to illnesses.
Being in captivity is much harder for the mother orcas since females in a pod in the wild also help with raising the orca calf, Rose added. More importantly, these animals are being put in tanks that are smaller than their natural habitat. SeaWorld, on the other hand, said that pneumonia is a rather common illness in killer whales, both in captivity and in the wild.
SeaWorld’s Orlando, San Diego, and San Antonio Parks currently have 22 orcas, the youngest of which was born in 2014 and named Amaya. Kyara was the 40th park orca to die, and the third in the last 18 months.
Kyara is the last of the orcas born in captivity as SeaWorld announced back in March 2016, the end of the orca breeding program after years of pressure from animal rights activists. Takara was already pregnant with Kyara when the announcement was made. SeaWorld had also announced that theatrical performances will end by 2019.
[Featured Image by jandaly/iStock]