A Seaworld orca whale who lived at the SeaWorld park in San Antonio died Monday after being sick for several months, according to CNN.
Unna, who was an 18-year-old killer whale and weighed 4,600 pounds, was suffering from a resistant strain of a fungus called candida.
“We are saddened to share the passing of Unna,” SeaWorld said. “Unna had been under the constant care of the SeaWorld veterinary team and outside experts from around the country for the past several months.”
According to SeaWorld, a necropsy will be performed on her to pinpoint the cause of her death.
Unna is the third killer whale to die at the Texas park in the last six months, which is raising concern among animal groups that have criticized SeaWorld for years over its treatment of captive marine mammals.
A premature baby orca, Beluga, died in July, and a 2-year-old orca died of gastrointestinal problems in November.
“While there were some indications that the treatment was having a positive effect, Unna had remained in serious condition and under 24/7 care,” SeaWorld said, adding that a necropsy will be performed.
SeaWorld has faced heated criticism and a decline in profits since the 2013 documentary film Blackfish was released. “Blackfish” showed that the captivity and public exhibition of the orca killer whales amounted to cruelty.
SeaWorld has contended that the film is inaccurate and misleading and says that their whales are taken care of and treated well.
Blackfish also explored the circumstances that lead to the 2010 death of 40-year-old Dawn Brancheau, who was a top SeaWorld trainer. She was pulled underwater and drowned by an orca she performed with in Florida.
SeaWorld has been under fire since Blackfish was released and is under fire again with the passing of Unna.
PETA claimed on Twitter that Unna was the “38th orca used by SeaWorld to die far short of how long she was expected to live. While the infection that killed Unna is common in captivity, there is no evidence to suggest that the same is true of orcas in nature.”
SeaWorld, which houses the most captive animals in North America, has tried hard to describe its fight to save Unna by giving regular updates on her treatment. SeaWorld currently cares for 8,000 marine and terrestrial animals and 78,000 fish.
Unna’s fight with cystitis first started back in September, and SeaWorld revealed how killer whale veterinarians and trainers at the park where giving her “around-the-clock attention and medical care.”
But SeaWorld went on to warn, “Experts are still determining the species of candida and its susceptibility to specific medications, as this particular fungus does not appear to be acting like normal candida. It appears to be resistant to commonly used medications, and we are working aggressively to overcome this challenge.”
The following month, SeaWorld noted that its vets were using “advanced medical therapy,” similar to methods in human medicine, to treat Unna. This advanced medical therapy had never before been used to treat killer whales.
The SeaWorld team revealed how it had developed a “first-of-its-kind” treatment plan for Unna with leading medical experts across the country.
“Although much of Unna¹s around-the-clock care is focused on vigilant monitoring and administering medications, her SeaWorld family continues to interact with her as she feels up to it and she¹s still up for the occasional back rub,” SeaWorld went on to describe. “This type of continued engagement and interaction is a positive sign and also provides encouragement for Unna¹s dedicated team.”
However, on Monday, they lost the fight.
San Diego SeaWorld announced that they plan to suspend their live whale shows for the time being. Other parks, including the SeaWorld in San Antonio, say the orca shows will continue, contending that their orcas are well treated.
Critics and animal rights people say it is inhumane to confine the intelligent orcas at sea parks, where they are trained and expected to perform in front of audiences in circus-like shows.
The orca show is SeaWorld’s biggest show, and crowds line up to watch the performances at Shamu Stadium, which seats 5,500 people.
[Photo by Gerardo Mora/Getty Images]