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Tuesday 24 April 2018

Seaworld: Another killer whale dies after suffering from a bacterial infection for 10 years

SeaWorld killer whale Tilikum performs during the show
SeaWorld killer whale Tilikum performs during the show "Believe" at SeaWorld Orlando in Orlando, Florida, U.S. on September 3, 2009. REUTERS/Mathieu Belanger/File Photo

Claire Mindock

An Orca Whale at SeaWorld has died after a long struggle to overcome a bacterial infection

The theme park made the decision to euthanise the mother of four six weeks after it was rumoured that she was on the brink of death.

"Despite their best efforts, her health and appetite significantly declined over the past several days despite continually tailored treatments,” SeaWorld said in a statement. “Kasatka’s veterinarians and caretakers made the difficult decision to humanely euthanise her to prevent compromising her quality of life.”

The 42-year-old whale was the grandmother of six, and the great grandmother of two. There are now 10 orcas in the San Diego theme park, including five males and five females. Those whales appear to be healthy, according to SeaWorld.

“But we’re monitoring and watching for any changes in their behaviour,” said the statement. “While the loss of Kasatka is heartbreaking for the animal care, veterinary and training teams, as well as the entire SeaWorld family, our focus is to continue the care of the rest of the orca family at the Orca Encounter facility.”

The death is the third death in relatively quick succession at the theme park. The famed whale Tillikum died in January. The three-month-old orca calf Kyara died at SeaWorld San Antonio three weeks ago.

SeaWorld critic and former orca trainer John Hargrove told the Times of San Diego in June that the theme park was doing "everything known to science to keep her alive," hoping to avoid that third death. He had shared photos of Kasatka with open sores and lesions on her face and skin, which indicated a massive fungal infection.

"I tried to get the media to expose it, I tried to have ANYONE force them to take pics of her," he tweeted following the death.

"Why didn't the media ever force SeaWorld to answer why they forcibly impregnated her in August 2011 while chronically ill & given major drugs?" he tweeted later.

SeaWorld says that it now cares for 21 orca whales in three facilities across the United States. A team of veterinarians will conduct a full post-mortem examination of Kasatka's illness to study how it affected her organ function, the theme park said. It could take weeks for that examination to be completed.

"Nobody knows more about caring for killer whales than the professionals at SeaWorld,” said Dan Ashe, president and CEO of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, told the Times of San Diego. “Having the privilege of working with these animals daily provides veterinarians and other animal care staff with the expertise and insight to make very difficult choices, like with Kasatka.

“Certainly, this was a difficult and wrenching decision, but I have absolutely no doubt that it was made with Kasatka’s best interest in mind. On behalf of the entire AZA family, we offer condolences to the dedicated SeaWorld professionals who have loved and cared for Kasatka throughout her life,” he said.

Kasatka's captivity began when she was caught in 1978 when she was captured and then sold to SeaWorld. She was moved to SeaWrold facitilies and performed as many as eight shows a day for crowds. After giving birth, she reportedly became more aggressive, and, in 1999, she attacked her trainer Ken Peters. A video of that attack shows Kasatka violently pulling Mr Peters down into her tank, before eventually going back up to allow Mr Peters to get air. Mr Peters was later able to pull free of Kasatka's grasp, and left the tank to safety.

SeaWorld did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Independent.

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