Following the January death of the infamous Tilikum and the July death of three-month-old Kyara, another orca at a SeaWorld facility is dead. Kasatka was euthanized Tuesday at SeaWorld San Diego “surrounded by members of her pod, as well as the veterinarians and caretakers who loved her,” according to a statement from the park. Leading up to her death, Kasatka received “lengthy treatment for a bacterial respiratory infection, or lung disease.” Kasatka was 41. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries says that in the wild, “females typically live about 50 years, but can live as long as 100 years.”
SeaWorld’s release calls Kasatka a matriarch as a “mother of four, grandmother of six and great grandmother of two.” As depicted in Blackfish, the 2013 documentary that almost singlehandedly revised SeaWorld’s image from amusement park to a factory of cruelty, Kasatka was separated from her daughter Takara, who was transported to another park:
Kasatka was also known for occasional aggression. Most famously, she dragged trainer Ken Peters to the bottom of a tank during a show and nearly drowned him in 2006. This incident is also depicted in Blackfish:
There are few confirmed orca attacks on humans in the wild, whereas there have been nearly two dozen recorded incidents of orca-on-human aggression in captivity.
In its statement, SeaWorld quoted trainer Kristi Burtis:
Today, I lost a member of my family. I have spent the past several years with Kasatka and was truly blessed to be part of her life.. Although I am heartbroken, I am grateful for the special time we had together and for the difference she has made for wild orcas by all that we have learned from her. I adored Kasatka and loved sharing her with millions of people. I will miss her very much.
Meanwhile, former trainer John Hargrove, who appeared in Blackfish and wrote Beneath the Surface, a book about his experience working for SeaWorld, tweeted several times about his anger over Kasatka’s death and released a statement to the Animal Legal Defense Fund, which reads:
After years of illness and suffering, Kasatka has finally died prematurely from disease. This makes the third captive orca death at SeaWorld since January and fourth in the last 20 months. I worked and swam with with her for many years but now I am sickened that I ever was a participant in what captivity is and more importantly what is does to these orcas. Even after being chronically ill and on massive amounts of drugs, SeaWorld forcibly impregnated her in August 2011 with the semen from a solitary captive orca in Argentina, creating a cross-bred calf.
They intentionally forced the nearly 18 month gestation and nearly two years of nursing knowing Kasatka was chronically ill. Even today, after I urged the media to get answers, SeaWorld has never explained what appears to be massive fungal and bacterial lesions that covered her face and body. For these reasons and many more, I am deeply committed to giving my full support for the introduction of the ‘The Florida Orca Protection Act’ which will be the same framework of the bill which has already been signed in to law in the state of California. This cruelty must end not just on a state level but on a federal one–which other countries have already successfully accomplished.