ByAlexandra Klausner | New York Post
In a March 7 2011 file photo, trainer Joe Sanchez, right, works with killer whale Kayla during the Believe show in Shamu Stadium at the SeaWorld Orlando theme park in Orlando, Fla.(AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
A post-mortem examination will determine Kayla’s cause of death, officials said. Kayla began showing signs of illness on Saturday.
“Her veterinarians immediately began treatment based on a physical examination,” SeaWorld said in a statement.
“Although animal care specialists and veterinarians devoted around the clock attention to Kayla, she did not survive.”
Kayla was the first killer whale born in captivity at SeaWorld in San Antonio, Texas, in 1988, and was the second-oldest orca born in captivity, according to WTSP. Kayla’s calf, Halyn, was just 3 years old when she died in 2008.
Dr. Naomi Rose, a marine mammal scientist at the Animal Welfare Institute, told the Orlando Sentinel that Kayla died very young for an orca.
“That’s like literally being a 30-year-old woman. Dying at 30 is not normal,” Rose said. Wild orcas can live up to 80 or 90 years.
SeaWorld stopped its orca breeding program in 2016 amid pressure from animal rights activists, shareholders and corporations after the release of the documentary “Blackfish” in 2013. The documentary detailed the life of Tilikum, an orca that killed its trainer during a performance in Orlando in 2010. Tilikum died in 2017 at just 33 years old.
Animal rights group PETA is speaking out following Kayla’s death.
“After being hauled from park to park, performing tricks in chemically treated waters for a reward of dead fish, miscarrying a calf and losing another, and enduring forced artificial insemination, Kayla’s suffering has come to an end,” PETA executive vice president Tracy Reiman told The Post in a statement.
“She died well shy of her normal life expectancy, stuck in a tiny tank at SeaWorld. PETA and local members will hold two memorials for her this week, because while we recognize that it’s too late to help her, it’s not too late to call attention to SeaWorld’s other orca prisoners, who must be released into seaside sanctuaries as soon as possible,” the statement continued.
Kayla was one of the last orcas at SeaWorld’s Orlando park. There are five orcas left in Orlando, five in San Antonio and 10 in San Diego, Time reported.
SeaWorld is monitoring the other orcas living in their Orlando park.
“It is possible the other orcas could be affected socially by her passing, and the orca behaviorists will be monitoring the other whales closely,” SeaWorld said in a release.