Kasatka, SeaWorld Killer Whale, Dies After Lung Disease Battle

John Hargrove with Kasatka in 2001

There are now 10 orcas in the San Diego theme park, including five males and five females.

PETA (whose motto reads, in part, that "animals are not ours to use for entertainment") will be holding a memorial for Kasatka-the third orca and sixth marine mammal to die at SeaWorld this year-at the intersection of Sea World Drive and Sea World Way in San Diego today at 12 noon. SeaWorld said they made a decision to euthanize the whale after her "health and appetite significantly declined over the past several days, despite continually tailored treatments", according to a statement from SeaWorld.

Veterinarians made the hard decision to euthanize Kasatka after her health started to decline in recent days despite treatment, which included a custom-built inhaler that allowed the medicine to go directly to her lungs.

Veterinarians at SeaWorld San Diego have euthanized the matriarch of its killer whale clan following a battle with lung disease. SeaWorld said all the orcas seem to be healthy.

Kasatka, around 42-years-old, was a mother of four, grandmother of six and great grandmother of two.

In its blog post announcing the orca's death, SeaWorld said the type of bacterial respiratory condition that Kasatka was suffering from is considered the most common cause of mortality and illness in whales and dolphins, both in the wild and in zoological facilities.

In 1978 she was captured off the coast of Iceland and is related to numerous whales now at the park.

"Although I am heartbroken", she added, "I am grateful for the special time we had together and for the difference she has made for wild orcas by all that we have learned from her".

SeaWorld announced the end of its breeding program in March 2016, following years of pressure from animal rights protests and shifting public opinion about orcas being held in captivity.

Twitter users were sad about the orca's death but many blamed SeaWorld's policies at least partly for her fate. The whale had been under treatment for the disease for several years.

Kasatka's death is the latest setback for SeaWorld.

Tilikum, which sired 14 calves over almost 25 years in Orlando, died of bacterial pneumonia in January. Veterinarians chose to euthanize the orca in order to "prevent compromising her quality of life", the marine park said.

The orca, responsible for the 2010 drowning death of Orland trainer Dawn Brancheau, was also the centerpiece of the 2013 "Blackfish" documentary, critical of SeaWorld's treatment of its killer whales.

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