Unna, an orca held in captivity at SeaWorld died Monday, Dec. 21, 2015 – just days before her 19th birthday, a far shorter life than her natural expectancy of 30-50 years.
“We are saddened to share the passing of Unna today,” SeaWorld announced on its website, SeaWorld Cares, a blog launched to save its reputation after massive fall out due to the documentary “Blackfish,” which aired in 2013. However, another orca death at such a young age goes to show that no amount of publicity can save SeaWorld from the truth – whales don’t belong in captivity.
Unna, who lived at the San Antonio park, had been under veterinary care since September 2015 when she suffered from a resistant strain of fungus called Candida. While it is unclear if the fungus was the ultimate cause of her death, Unna had not responded well to treatments for the infection.
After Unna was not showing much improvement through traditional medicines, SeaWorld experimented with a medication never used before with killer whales. Her side effects caused a loss of appetite and Umma had to be supplemented with fluids.
Ultimately, the treatments were unsuccessful. While some cetaceans get fungal infections in the wild, they are far more common in captivity, often secondary to stress, unbalanced water disinfection with chlorines, or indiscriminate antibiotic therapy. A necropsy will be performed to determine the ultimate cause of her death, SeaWorld confirmed.
This is not the first tragedy at SeaWorld this year. In February, Nanuq, a White Arctic Beluga whale, died in captivity at SeaWorld Orlando after ongoing treatment for a jaw injury. The injury was sustained during what SeaWorld called an “interaction” between two animals “that were part of a compatible social group,” according to Headline & Global News.
One of the most unfortunate aspects of Umma’s young death is that despite 24/7 veterinary care, their lives likely wouldn’t have been cut short had they not been in captivity in the first place.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, male killer whales live on average for 30 years, but can live as long as 50 to 60 years, while females live 50 years but can live as long as 100 years.
What Can You do for Captive Whales and Marine Animals?
Facilities like SeaWorld are profit-driven businesses. The first thing you can do to help whales, dolphins, and other captive marine animals in such enclosures is to not support or visit parks or businesses that hold these amazing creatures captive. If you want to take your activism further, you can join the Empty the Tanks Worldwide movement to join protests and help spread the world about the dark side of marine captivity. Keep up with the campaign’s Facebook page here. Share this article to help orcas like Unna so that all whales can one day be free.
Image source: Tammy Lo / Flickr