SeaWorld’s oldest surviving orca born and raised in captivity has recently died.

Kayla, a female orca suddenly started to be ill on Saturday afternoon and ultimately passed away, theme parks made an official statement this morning. She had lived a long life of 30 years.

Kayla arrived in the world at SeaWorld Antonio in 1988, and ever since she had only known the boundaries of a tank. The freedom of swimming in the open sea was a distant dream for her. After giving birth to her first calf in 2005, Kayla was taken to SeaWorld’s Orlando park only a year later. Her young one had been faced behind, and as a result, she tragically died at just 2 years old.


In November 2018, Kayla had been misused for special encounters where guests could pay extra to meet her closely and also feed her.

The truth is Kayla isn’t the only Orca who died under captivity. Her death, in fact, follows a decades-long trend of captive orcas dying young or under unforeseen circumstances at SeaWorld theme parks. Since the 1960s at least 49 orcas have died in the park and most of them were babies. In the free ocean, female orcas live an average life of 50 years old and can live up to a long 90 years.


SeaWorld has three amusement parks in the United States which has a total of 20 orcas, only of whom 3 were taken from the ocean. Even though the park would like to claim that the captive orcas are perfectly fine, the truth is that they are under immense stress from living in captivity. As a result, there have been many documented instances where these Orcas have suffered.

Historically stressed orcas at SeaWorld have been found with bite marks and gnashes from fighting with others in their cramped tanks. They lead stressful lives, as seen at a Spanish marine park when one-wild caught orca tried to come to the beach after being attacked by other captive-born orcas.


Kayla’s cause of death is not exactly clear, and a necropsy has been promised by the park officials. It’s highly unlikely though that the cause will be revealed as it’s clear that the park itself is to be blamed.

As seen in the death of famed SeaWorld orca Tilikum in 2017, the park is legally protected to not disclose the medical history of necropsy reports of the dead orcas.

“She was fine…until she wasn’t” Naomi Rose, a marine mammal scientist with the Animal Welfare Institute wrote on the Facebook page she runs. “Cause of death will be reported when results from tests are in, but it will probably be inconclusive or rather uninformative. If the necropsy results were publicly available or evaluated in published research, there would be less of a mystery.”

After Kayla’s sudden death animal advocates around the world are raising their voice in support of whale sanctuary initiatives, whose whole idea is to bring together all the captive orcas and release them into large, appropriate habitats in the ocean. It would be a dream come true for all the captive orcas.

“We will hold two memorials for her this week,” Tracy Reiman, executive vice president of PETA, told the Dodo. “While we recognize that it’s too late to help her, it’s not too late to call attention to SeaWorld’s other orca prisoners.”

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