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Kayla, a 30-year-old killer whale born in captivity at a SeaWorld park in Orlando, Florida, has died.
Vets at the park noticed the orca appeared uncomfortable at the weekend and started treating her. According to the Daily Mail, they did a physical exam on the marine beast and tried to fix the issue.
Sadly, after two days of trying to nurse the killer whale back to full health, she died.
SeaWorld has released a statement saying: "The entire SeaWorld family is deeply saddened by the loss.
"While today is a difficult day for all of us at SeaWorld, Kayla inspired generations of guests and employees to care and learn more about this amazing species."
Orcas are incredibly social mammals that can mimic human like responses to loss like grief. As a result, SeaWorld says it will be making sure the other orcas are looked after.
"'It is possible the other orcas could be affected socially by her passing, and the orca behaviourists will be monitoring the other whales closely.
"We don't, however, anticipate any physical health issues amongst the other orcas."
At the moment, Kayla's cause of death is being ruled unofficially as a mystery illness, but more will be known once a post-mortem examination is undertaken.
While Kayla was the second oldest captive-born orca, experts are pointing out that 30 years old is still very young for a killer whale. Most orcas kept in captivity don't live past the age of 25.
Dr. Naomi Rose, a marine-mammal scientist at the Animal Welfare Institute told the Orlando Sentinel: "That's like literally being a 30-year-old woman. Dying at 30 is not normal."
She said that if Kayla was out in the open, she would have been in the prime of her life, so a death at this age is just heart breaking.
SeaWorld has been under heavy criticism for years for its use of marine animals in its shows. The documentary Blackfish also shined a light on the theme park and how damaging it can be for an orca to be kept in captivity.
A former SeaWorld orca trainer, John Hargrove, spoke to the Daily Mail about his time at the attraction, telling the paper it was 'an abomination'.
He said: "They claim captive orcas help educate people, and for years I bought into it. But Kasatka lived in misery, in barbaric and horrific conditions, and died in agony.
"She lived out her days in a house of horrors - and I was complicit in selling the lie to the public.
Kasatka was a female orca, that died in 2017 at the age of 41 after she was put to sleep following a battle with lung disease.
When approached for comment following Hargrove's latest interview, a spokesperson for SeaWorld told the Mail: "These allegations are the same distortions and mischaracterisations that have been made and discredited over the years.
"No one is more dedicated to the health and wellbeing of our animals than the expert veterinarians and animal care staff working with this family of killer whales every day."
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