Just over a year after SeaWorld announced the end of its captive orca program, the final orca born at one of its parks has died.
After a long period of protests, the company announced in March 2016 that it would stop breeding orcas and let the remaining ones it held live out their lives. At that time, Takara, an orca living in a park in San Antonio, Texas, was still pregnant. It gave birth last April, following an 18-month gestation period.
The female calf named Kyara was reported to be in good health after its birth, but in the past week its condition degraded due to an infection, reports Amy Wang for The Washington Post. Over the three days before its death, veterinarians worked around the clock to watch over and care for the orca, giving it antibiotics and feeding it by hand, according to a statement from the park.
However, the three-month old calf died yesterday from what appears to be pneumonia, reports Wang. A full postmortem examination will be conducted to pinpoint the cause, but it may take several weeks to finalize results, according to the park statement. The other orcas appear to be healthy and unaffected.
“Kyara had a tremendous impact on the entire zoological team, not to mention all of the guests that had the chance to see her,” trainer Julie Sigman says in the park's statement. “The heart and support that has gone into caring for her throughout Takara’s pregnancy until today has been amazing."
Kyara is the second SeaWorld orca to die this year of pneumonia, reports the Associated Press. In January, a male named Tilikum died of bacterial pneumonia. Tilikum was a focus of the 2013 documentary "Blackfish" that criticized the ethics and management of SeaWorld's captive orca program. Awareness from the documentary and declining ticket sales to the SeaWorld parks helped drive the decision to end the orca breeding programs there.
Former SeaWorld orca trainer John Hargrove, who appeared in "Blackfish" and has campaigned against the orca program of his former employer, took to Twitter to respond to Kyara's death, reports Pritha Paul of the International Business Times.
"I am grateful Tiki's calf only lived for 3 months in a concrete box deprived of all things natural," Hargrove wrote. "For Takara, my heart is broken in pieces."