What’s Wrong With Kayla the Killer Whale?

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It has been well documented that Tilikum spends the majority of his time logging at the surface of his tank, but it turns out he is not the only one.

At a recent visit to SeaWorld Orlando, Kayla also spent an exorbitant amount of time stationary at the surface while her tankmates swam circles around her.  Kayla was born in November 1988, making her the second oldest captive born killer whale in SeaWorld’s collection at only 25 years old.

In Death at SeaWorld, David Kirby reported that Kayla had been taken away from her mother at 2 years old.  In October 2005 she gave birth to Halyn in San Antonio.  Having never learned maternal skills, she rejected her calf.  Halyn died in San Antonio at only two and a half years old.   In November 2006 Kayla was moved from San Antonio to Orlando.

According the NOAA, female Killer Whales in the wild typically live about 50 years but can live as long as 100 years.  Granny, the infamous matriarch of the Southern Resident Killer Whales, is estimated to be 103 years old.  Granny made waves earlier this year when she was spotted after traveling 800 miles in a little over a week with her pod.

Then there’s Kayla…

Naomi Rose of Animal Welfare Institute observed that “the logging behavior was excessive and especially troubling given the activity of the other whales in the tank” 

To put things in perspective

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What’s Happening at Wild Arctic?

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A short distance away from Shamu Stadium, ​My Fox Orlando reported on Tuesday that SeaWorld has recently acquired their “most eligible beluga bachelor”, Nanuq.  Nanuq arrived in Orlando from San Diego in June in hopes of expanding their beluga family.  Belugas typically do not fair well in captivity.  The ​oldest reported, Kavna, died at Vancouver Aquarium in 2012 at 46 years old.  Vancouver Park Board recently ​voted unanimously to ban further breeding of captive cetaceans.  Meanwhile, Georgia Aquarium continues ​the fight to import 18 wild-captured belugas from Russia.

Perhaps SeaWorld decided to report the news this week to divert attention from the ​death of their last polar bear, Johnny, last week. Johnny’s enclosure had been boarded up with no explanation.  Time will tell if SeaWorld will ​honor his death by keeping it empty.

Broken Ties, Polar Bear Dies, Audience Cries

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Thursday, news broke that SeaWorld and Southwest Airlines were parting ways.  This was cause for celebration for those who have been in quiet communications with Southwest Airlines and others who have petitioned them to request the end of their long-running relationship. However, SeaWorld has stated that the decision was mutual because they want to concentrate on growing markets in Latin America and Asia.  With less animal protections in these countries, the split is not all good news for those animals who might be captured or shipped to fill the new market.

These broken ties are obviously a step in the right direction, but there is more work to be done. Virgin Holidays has claimed to remain dedicated to ocean conservation, yet even afterengaging stakeholders in the conversation about cetaceans and tourism in June, they continue to sell trips to SeaWorld.  

WWF has also come under fire in the past months after The Dodo exposed their relationship with SeaWorld.  WWF states that they are mandated to protect and serve endangered animals in the wild, but animals in captivity falls outside of that protection.  As an organization who claims to protect endangered animals it is interesting to find that Southern Resident Killer Whales, an endangered species due partially to SeaWorld’s captures, are not even acknowledged on the WWF ​website.   

It is encouraging to see major victories like the broken ties of Southwest Airlines, but this is only one step in the big picture. Continued pressure is needed to education others like ​@VirginHolidays and ​@WWF and sign the petitions to ​Richard Branson and ​WWF.

Later Thursday night, Orlando Sentinel reported that SeaWorld Orlando’s last polar bear, Johnny, died unexpectedly.  Following a physical exam under anesthesia, Johnny was suspected to have gone into cardiac arrest during recovery according to SeaWorld’s attending vets.  The park experienced another polar bear death last September when 18 year old Klondike died unexpectedly.  We can only hope that SeaWorld comes to realize that polar bears don’t belong in captivity, or in Florida.  It’s time for the polar bear enclosure to remain empty.

SeaWorld’s #SeaofSurprises has experienced it’s challenges since the celebration started in March, but the biggest one might be yet to come. Part of their anniversary celebration includes new shows to replace those that have been running for a long time. The first of these new shows is Shamu’s Celebration, the night show at Shamu Stadium replacing the older Shamu Rocks.  The new show includes original music after artists such as Joan Jett asked them to stop using her music.

On August 10, SeaWorld will end their long-running Clyde and Seamore Take Pirate Island. Orlando Sentinel has predicted the possibility of losing loyal fans with this move.  Losing fans while trying desperately to regain their appeal could potentially accelerate the natural death process of this struggling theme park.

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