In a rather sad turn of events, SeaWorld Orlando witnessed the passing of one of its oldest captive orca whales on Sunday. Kayla, a 30-year-old female, was the second-oldest orca ever born into captivity before she died.
According to SeaWorld officials, Kalya became ill for unknown reasons on Saturday. The park employed trained veterinarians to care for Kayla in an attempt to nurse her back to health, but her condition only deteriorated; she died the next day.
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Attempting to remain positive on the matter, SeaWorld Orlando had this today:
"Although animal care specialists and veterinarians devoted around the clock attention to Kayla, she did not survive. While today is a difficult day for all of us at SeaWorld, Kayla inspired generations of guests and employees to care and learn more about this amazing species."
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Two days later, SeaWorld Orlando still doesn’t know the official cause of Kayla’s death, and the details surrounding her sudden medical condition remain hazy. The park is planning a full-scale post-mortem examination, a move that will hopefully shed some light on the matter.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, animal activist groups like PETA are furious about Kayla’s death. PETA has gone as far as to call SeaWorld an “abusement park” rather than an amusement park in one of its public Tweets, noting that “no orca should ever have to live like this” with an apparent reference to captive living:
Kayla wasn’t the first captive orca to die in SeaWorld’s care, and she probably won’t be the last. Just two years ago, an infamous orca by the name of Tilikum died after succumbing to a lung infection. One year before, an orca by the name of Morgan beached herself during a live performance in front of an audience.
SeaWorld agreed previously to stop breeding orca whales in captivity, but the company is thought to have at least 20 captive orcas living in its host of amusement parks today. Those still in captivity are grandfathered into the company’s traditions, which won’t stop until one of two things happens: 1) SeaWorld changes its tune and releases the creatures, or 2) all the animals die in captivity.
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Orca whales have a life expectancy of 50+ years in the wild, so it’d be an understatement to say that Kayla died at a young age for her kind. Some have suggested that the captive lifestyle depresses and stresses orcas, whereas the open waters of the wild provide these large and majestic marine animals with the freedom and space they need to avert these complications.
It will be interesting to see what SeaWorld says after discovering the cause of death. The company has a lot to answer for, especially concerning all the outrage sparked among park-goers and animal activists.