The last killer whale born in a SeaWorld park died in San Antonio on Monday. It was three months old. Seaworld said in a statement the calf, named Kyara, was being treated for an infection, likely pneumonia, at the time of her death.
The company further noted that pneumonia is “one of the most common causes of morbidity and illness” in whales and dolphins — both in the wild and in captivity. A veterinary team will conduct a post-mortem exam to determine the exact cause of death.
Kyara was the last orca to be born at a SeaWorld Park following the park’s decision last year to end its killer whale breeding program. Kyara’s mother, Takara, was pregnant at the time of the announcement.
The decision to end the program came in response to intense scrutiny after the airing of a 2013 documentary “Blackfish,” which claimed animal abuse occurred against orcas at SeaWorld parks.
In recent years, advocacy groups have highlighted problems with orca captivity. Between 2012 and 2014, opposition to orca captivity increased 11 percent. The park also saw a steep decline in attendance.
The Humane Society of the United States praised SeaWorld for its decision to end the breeding program, but pushed the park to make more changes, including ending similar programs for other captive animals.
“We are saddened to learn that Kyara has passed. Due to our agreement with SeaWorld, she was the last orca to be born in captivity in the U.S., and the era of captive orcas on display is sunsetting,” Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the organization, said. “We’ve believed all along that this kind of environment is not ideal for these animals. We will continue talking with SeaWorld about ways to allow the remaining orcas to do their best in the years ahead,” he added.