SeaWorld’s controversial reputation is not going to improve after one of the five orcas at the Orlando park died suddenly on Monday, January 28. Kayla, a 30-year-old orca, was one of 20 still housed at SeaWorld’s parks.

According to park officials, Kayla’s started showing “signs of discomfort” on Saturday, January 26, and her health deteriorated rapidly over the next few days despite treatment and around-the-clock attention by animal specialists and veterinarians. “While today is a difficult day for all of us at SeaWorld,” said a statement issued by SeaWorld, “Kayla inspired generations of guests and employees to care and learn more about this amazing species.”

At 30 years old, Kayla died relatively young for an orca. The NOAA Fisheries estimates that female orcas typically live about 50 years, but can live from 80 to 90 years in the wild. She was born in captivity in 1988 in San Antonio before being transferred to SeaWorld Ohio, San Antonio again, then to Orlando in 2006.

SeaWorld has faced widespread criticism — most notably in the wake of the 2013 documentary Blackfish — for its captivity practices. In response, SeaWorld ended its breeding program in 2016, and vowed to phase out theatrical shows involving whales across all of its parks in 2019.

Animal rights groups like PETA are jumping on Kayla’s death to draw attention to the suffering of animals in captivity. They plan on holding a series of memorials outside SeaWorld Orlando this week.

 

H/T: BBC News