One of the last remaining orcas at SeaWorld has died after suddenly falling ill.
Kayla the killer whale was just 30 years old when she passed away on Monday (January 28), after spending her whole life at various SeaWorld locations.
The whale was born in captivity and was one of six remaining orcas at the Orlando park. SeaWorld announced they had stopped its controversial breeding programme in 2016, and now has a total of 20 killer whales left at three of its US locations.
According to Orlando Weekly, Kayla was the first killer whale to be born in captivity at SeaWorld San Antonio, in 1988. The whale was later transferred to SeaWorld Ohio in 1991, a park which has since shut down, before finally being moved to the Orlando location in 2006.
Kayla was recently part of the ‘Killer Whale Up Close Tour’ which was offered at SeaWorld Orlando.
The whale reportedly began showing signs of discomfort on Saturday, after which veterinarians performed a physical exam and treated the animal.
Unfortunately, the whale’s condition continued to worsen on Sunday, and she was monitored and cared for constantly until she sadly died in the presence of an animal care specialist.
SeaWorld officials aren’t certain of the cause of Kayla’s sudden passing, but they expect to learn more once a post-mortem exam is conducted.
The company released a statement regarding the death of the whale, which read:
Her veterinarians immediately began treatment based on a physical examination. Unfortunately, her condition worsened on Sunday. 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.
At just 30 years old, Kayla’s passing comes as a shock. According to National Geographic, the average life span of a killer whale in the wild is 50 to 80 years.
Speaking to the Orlando Sentinel, as reported in the Miami Herald, Dr. Naomi Rose, a marine-mammal scientist, explained Kayla was in the ‘prime of life’.
That’s like literally being a 30-year-old woman. Dying at 30 is not normal.
Many social media users have shared tributes to Kayla, with some touching on the devastating fact she spent her entire life in captivity.
The official PETA Twitter account wrote:
Kayla, an orca trapped at #SeaWorld her entire life, has DIED in a tank at the #Orlando abusement park. She never got to swim in the ocean.
Kayla was forced to move around the country from park to park & heartbreakingly lost babies over the years
While another Twitter user added:
RIP Kayla. #SeaWorld Orca Kayla has died. She was 30. She never should have lived her entire short life in a cage. In the wild she could have lived to be a 100. Free. RT to have @SeaWorld stop whale and dolphin shows.
Kayla was forced to move around the country from park to park & heartbreakingly lost babies over the years 💔 pic.twitter.com/DClMYXJmKg
— PETA (@peta) January 28, 2019
Another whale dies in captivity @ #SeaWorld Orlando #kayla just 30yrs pushed around from Texas, Ohio, Texas, Orlando. Lost a calf, this was no way to live for this beautiful creature! As just a money making commodity 😥💔 #RipKayla #EmptyTheTanks #captivitykills #dontbuyaticket
— Maggie Bartsch (@maggie_bartsch) January 28, 2019
RIP Kayla. #SeaWorld Orca Kayla has died. She was 30. She never should have lived her entire short life in a cage. In the wild she could have lived to be a 100. Free. RT to have @SeaWorld stop whale and dolphin shows. #BoycottSeaWorld. pic.twitter.com/FawKueJG3A
— Daniel Schneider (@BiologistDan) January 28, 2019
Following Kayla’s death, SeaWorld officials are keeping a close eye on the five remaining whales.
According to the MailOnline they explained in a release:
It is possible the other orcas could be affected socially by her passing, and the orca behaviourists will be monitoring the other whales closely.
We don’t, however, anticipate any physical health issues amongst the other orcas.
Rest in peace, Kayla.
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Emily Brown first began delivering important news stories aged just 13, when she launched her career with a paper round. She graduated with a BA Hons in English Language in the Media from Lancaster University, and went on to become a freelance writer and blogger. Emily contributed to The Sunday Times Travel Magazine and Student Problems before becoming a journalist at UNILAD, where she works on breaking news as well as longer form features.