One of Sea World’s oldest killer whales has passed away due to a debilitating lung disease. Kasatka, which the marine park called the matriarch of its orcas, died on Tuesday night, making this the second killer whale death in one month at Sea World locations.
Kasatka’s health and appetite had declined so badly in recent days despite undergoing specialized treatments, according to Sea World. She had been suffering for years, San Diego Union Tribune reports. Veterinarians decided to euthanize the orca in order to “prevent compromising her quality of life,” the marine park said. A blog post announced that Kasatka had a type of bacterial respiratory condition.
Kasatka was one of the last killer whales to enter the park from the wild. She was captured in Iceland in 1978 and was brought to San Diego the same year. During her time at Sea World, she became the mother of four, grandmother of six and great-grandmother of two orcas.
Kristi Burtis, orca behaviorist at the park, said,
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.
Burtis added, “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.”
Sea World announced that its veterinary team will be conducting a necropsy to find out the extent of the orca’s sickness and what effect it had on her organs. It might take several weeks before the results come out.
There are around 21 killer whales across Sea Worlds in the USA, almost all of which were born in captivity. San Diego now has 10 orcas.