Kyara, a three-month-old SeaWorld orca, has died for still-unknown reasons.
A post-mortem examination will reveal the baby orca's cause of death, and SeaWorld has stated that it will release an update as soon as one is available. Veterinarians suspect that the cause of death may have been pneumonia. Three-month-old Kyara's death is just the latest in a long string of orca deaths that occurred in SeaWorld, which has a controversial orca breeding program.
SeaWorld has come under fire for keeping killer whales in captivity. The park was known for its killer whale shows, which featured the famous—or should we say infamous—Tilikum. Tilikum is the park's most well-known orca, notorious for having killed one of his trainers in 2010. He also had an involvement in two other deaths in the 90s.
Tilikum died early this year of a bacterial infection at age 35. He is just one among 40 orcas to die in SeaWorld, the latest of which was Kyara.
SeaWorld shut down its orca breeding program after public opinion turned against it. In 2013, a CNN documentary called Blackfish came out and exposed SeaWorld's unethical treatment of its killer whales. The film largely featured Tilikum, who had been taken captive when he was two years old.
The outcry against keeping orcas in captivity stemmed from the fact that the whales do not thrive in captivity. Thus, SeaWorld decided to close its breeding program. Takara, Kyara's mother, must have gotten pregnant right around the time that SeaWorld made the announcement. Kyara was therefore the last SeaWorld orca to be born in captivity.
She was also the third SeaWorld orca to die in just 18 months.
Kyara died surrounded by SeaWorld staff. She had been under 24-hour care, and had even been hand-fed so she can get stronger.
Orcas are the second widest-ranging animals on the planet, just after humans. Because of this, experts have maintained that keeping orcas confined in a tank with relatively little space to swim in is cruel. Kyara, in her short three months of life, had never even seen the ocean she should have been born in. She died on July 24, after a bout of serious health problems.
SeaWorld maintains that captivity had not been the cause of Kyara's illness. The park stated that veterinarians had been treating Kyara for pneumonia in the time leading up to her death. Pneumonia, the statement said, is the leading cause of death for orcas both in captivity and in the wild.
Even so, however, we can't exactly say that SeaWorld has a good track record with the orcas in its care. While it would be unfair to say that SeaWorld did not provide care for Kyara and the other orcas that had been in its tanks, it's arguable that the orcas should never have been there in the first place.
Each remaining SeaWorld orca will stay in the park even though the breeding program is over and the killer whale shows have been transformed. It's possible that the orcas will not survive in the wild. Of course, whether or not they thrive in captivity is still questionable.
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