The ocean park announced that the mother of four, grandmother of six and great grandmother of two died at approximately 8:15 p.m. "surrounded by members of her pod, as well as the veterinarians and caretakers who loved her."
"All of us at SeaWorld are deeply saddened by this loss, but thankful for the joy she has brought us and more than 125 million park guests," the statement continued.
The 10 remaining killer whales currently living in the San Diego facility "appear to be doing well, but we're monitoring and watching for any changes in their behavior," SeaWorld said.
Kasatka's was captured off the coast of Iceland on October 26, 1978 when she was less than two years old. Conservation organization Dolphin Project notes that with her death, only three wild-caught orcas remain at SeaWorld parks in the United States—Ulysses and Corky in San Diego, and Katina in Orlando.
Kasatka had been undergoing treatment for lung disease after being diagnosed with a bacterial respiratory infection in 2008.
"Despite their best efforts, her health and appetite significantly declined over the past several days despite continually tailored treatments," SeaWorld said. "Kasatka's veterinarians and caretakers made the difficult decision to humanely euthanize her to prevent compromising her quality of life."
However, questions remain about her passing. An article and photos posted by Dolphin Project in June showed Kasatka appearing lethargic and perhaps struggling with an infection from open lesions. Former SeaWorld trainer John Hargrove, a SeaWorld whistleblower who appeared in the 2013 documentary Blackfish, posted photos of the apparent injuries on social media.
He also tweeted last night, "I screamed for the media to demand an independent lab do the tests because they can't be trusted.They will never release her necropsy report"
Hargrove told Times of San Diego in June that SeaWorld was "doing everything known to science to keep her alive" to avoid another orca death in quick succession, including Kyara, who died in July at just 3 months old and was the last orca born in captivity at SeaWorld, and Tilikum, who died in January.
Tilikum was made famous in Blackfish for killing a SeaWorld trainer in Orlando. His story brought the issues surrounding captivity and the animal amusement industry into the national conversation.
Kasatka, who gave birth to Tilikum's son Nakai in 2001 through artificial insemination, has also shown aggression to humans. In 2006, she grabbed trainer Ken Peters underwater during a performance in California. Peters survived the incident and later said that the risks with working with the whales are "acceptable."
Following years of criticism, SeaWorld announced in May 2016 that it would cease all of its orca breeding programs. The company now cares for a total of 21 orcas at its three facilities in San Diego (10), Orlando (6) and San Antonio (5).
SeaWorld has posted a tribute video of Kasatka following her death. Watch here:
According to Bloomberg, "SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. received a subpoena earlier this month from regulators investigating disclosures and public statements by executives, including comments about the Blackfish documentary that caused a public backlash against the confinement of orcas.
"The investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice and Securities and Exchange Commission will also look at trading in the Orlando, Florida-based company's securities before and during August 2014, according to a filing Friday. SeaWorld said it's cooperating with the probe, and its board organized a special committee of independent directors, with their own legal counsel, to deal with the matter."
Watch the Newsy video above to learn more.
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
The bright patterns and recognizable designs of Waterlust's activewear aren't just for show. In fact, they're meant to promote the conversation around sustainability and give back to the ocean science and conservation community.
Each design is paired with a research lab, nonprofit, or education organization that has high intellectual merit and the potential to move the needle in its respective field. For each product sold, Waterlust donates 10% of profits to these conservation partners.
Eye-Catching Designs Made from Recycled Plastic Bottles
waterlust.com / @abamabam
The company sells a range of eco-friendly items like leggings, rash guards, and board shorts that are made using recycled post-consumer plastic bottles. There are currently 16 causes represented by distinct marine-life patterns, from whale shark research and invasive lionfish removal to sockeye salmon monitoring and abalone restoration.
One such organization is Get Inspired, a nonprofit that specializes in ocean restoration and environmental education. Get Inspired founder, marine biologist Nancy Caruso, says supporting on-the-ground efforts is one thing that sets Waterlust apart, like their apparel line that supports Get Inspired abalone restoration programs.
"All of us [conservation partners] are doing something," Caruso said. "We're not putting up exhibits and talking about it — although that is important — we're in the field."
Waterlust not only helps its conservation partners financially so they can continue their important work. It also helps them get the word out about what they're doing, whether that's through social media spotlights, photo and video projects, or the informative note card that comes with each piece of apparel.
"They're doing their part for sure, pushing the information out across all of their channels, and I think that's what makes them so interesting," Caruso said.
And then there are the clothes, which speak for themselves.
Advocate Apparel to Start Conversations About Conservation
waterlust.com / @oceanraysphotography
Waterlust's concept of "advocate apparel" encourages people to see getting dressed every day as an opportunity to not only express their individuality and style, but also to advance the conversation around marine science. By infusing science into clothing, people can visually represent species and ecosystems in need of advocacy — something that, more often than not, leads to a teaching moment.
"When people wear Waterlust gear, it's just a matter of time before somebody asks them about the bright, funky designs," said Waterlust's CEO, Patrick Rynne. "That moment is incredibly special, because it creates an intimate opportunity for the wearer to share what they've learned with another."
The idea for the company came to Rynne when he was a Ph.D. student in marine science.
"I was surrounded by incredible people that were discovering fascinating things but noticed that often their work wasn't reaching the general public in creative and engaging ways," he said. "That seemed like a missed opportunity with big implications."
Waterlust initially focused on conventional media, like film and photography, to promote ocean science, but the team quickly realized engagement on social media didn't translate to action or even knowledge sharing offscreen.
Rynne also saw the "in one ear, out the other" issue in the classroom — if students didn't repeatedly engage with the topics they learned, they'd quickly forget them.
"We decided that if we truly wanted to achieve our goal of bringing science into people's lives and have it stick, it would need to be through a process that is frequently repeated, fun, and functional," Rynne said. "That's when we thought about clothing."
Support Marine Research and Sustainability in Style
To date, Waterlust has sold tens of thousands of pieces of apparel in over 100 countries, and the interactions its products have sparked have had clear implications for furthering science communication.
For Caruso alone, it's led to opportunities to share her abalone restoration methods with communities far and wide.
"It moves my small little world of what I'm doing here in Orange County, California, across the entire globe," she said. "That's one of the beautiful things about our partnership."
Check out all of the different eco-conscious apparel options available from Waterlust to help promote ocean conservation.
Melissa Smith is an avid writer, scuba diver, backpacker, and all-around outdoor enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in journalism and sustainable studies. Before joining EcoWatch, Melissa worked as the managing editor of Scuba Diving magazine and the communications manager of The Ocean Agency, a non-profit that's featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Chasing Coral.
On the morning of Jan. 6, one of SeaWorld's most well-known orcas, Tilikum, passed away surrounded by trainers, care staff and veterinarians at the Orlando, Florida ocean theme park where the famous killer whale lived most of his life.
Coincidentally on that same weekend, professional race car driver and environmental advocate Leilani Münter was in town to give a speech at a sustainability symposium. Tilikum's death particularly struck a chord; the longtime animal rights activist once drove a Blackfish-themed race car at the Talladega Superspeedway in 2014 to raise awareness about cetaceans in captivity.
So Sad! Infamous Killer Whale #Tilikum Dies in Captivity https://t.co/Q8d3uWjhlw @peta @HumaneSociety @Oceana @acousteau— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1483904706.0
"Heartbroken" over the news and prompted by her chance proximity to the deceased whale, Münter drove to SeaWorld on the afternoon of Jan. 8 to pay her respects. She placed a sign and 33 roses—one for each year Tilikum spent in captivity—at the park entrance.
"May the four winds blow you safely to your ocean home where you've belonged all these 33 years," the sign read. "RIP Tilikum."
Münter's gesture, which she filmed and posted on Facebook Live, resulted in a trespass warning from the Orange County Sheriff's Office and an indefinite ban from not just the Orlando park but from all of SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment Properties, including Discovery Cove, Aquatica, Florida Festival, Places of Learning, Corporate Offices, Contact Center, Busch Gardens-Tampa and Adventure Island.
Let's all promise to get into some #GoodTrouble in 2017. https://t.co/3ocTRaPBgW— Leilani Münter (@Leilani Münter)1484536989.0
SeaWorld confirmed the incident to Speedway Digest. "The safety of our ambassadors and guests, and the welfare of our animals is always our top priority," said Vice President of Public Relations Aimée Jeansonne Becka.
Münter is not too bothered by the ban, saying she's "not a huge fan" of the park anyway. However, she told EcoWatch that it's "ridiculous" that the company considered her a safety threat to park visitors.
"I wasn't making a ruckus. It was just so harmless," she said, noting that she did not shout at anyone or use a loudspeaker and did not resist detainment. She has also posted a full statement about the incident on social media.
The official complaint states, "Subject was mourning loss of orca on property w/roses and sign without permission."
Here's the official SeaWorld complaint against me to Orange County Sheriff's Office banning me from all their prope… https://t.co/PcZFfUP1vl— Leilani Münter (@Leilani Münter)1483939459.0
The 42-year-old racer is currently back home in Charlotte, North Carolina. When asked about her brush with SeaWorld security, she told EcoWatch that she wanted to pay respect to Tilikum's life.
"He's one of many orcas that has lived a miserable life in captivity but his story is somewhat exceptional," describing how the 2013 documentary Blackfish was about Tilikum's life and "the plight of captivity."
"It's wrong to pull these magnificent animals that are emotionally complex and live in tight-knit family groups from the wild. To force them to live this horrific life in this tiny pool doing tricks for food I think is just wrong," she said.
"We can see these animals in their magnificence in the wild, and isn't that a much more beautiful way to see these animals instead of seeing them in a cage or jumping through hoops?"
SeaWorld's parking lot outlined in yellow, their orca habitat is outlined in blue. This is wrong. #EmptyTheTanks https://t.co/bvitRG7OHS— Leilani Münter (@Leilani Münter)1484519730.0
Tilikum was brought to SeaWorld 25 years ago and died at the estimated age of 36. In March, SeaWorld announced the end of the orca breeding program, meaning the whales currently at SeaWorld will be the last generation of orcas under human care.
Münter will return to the Daytona International Speedway in the ARCA Racing Series season opener on Feb. 18 in the first-ever vegan-themed race car for Venturini Motorsports. Münter adopts an acre of rainforest for every race she's in, a tradition she started back in 2007.
Check out the ride in the video here:
By Amanda Froelich
According to a new report by SeaWorld, Tilikum—the infamous killer whale involved in the deaths of three people—died today. The well-known orca, thought to be about 35-years-old, was the focus of the 2013 documentary "Blackfish," which criticizes the marine park for keeping killer whales and other aquatic wildlife in conditions deemed to be less-than-ideal.
On January 6, SeaWorld announced on its website:
"Tilikum passed away early this morning, January 6, surrounded by the trainers, care staff and veterinarians that provided him around-the-clock world-class care."
Tilikum was the most prolific male orca at SeaWorld, according to BBC News, as he sired 14 calves. The orca remained a part of the "SeaWorld family" despite the fact that he was responsible for trainer Dawn Brancheau's death after he dragged her underwater by the hair and repeatedly struck her. The orca has also been credited with two other deaths, which were detailed in the Blackfish documentary.
"While today is a difficult day for the SeaWorld family, it's important to remember that Tilikum lived a long and enriching life while at SeaWorld," the statement reads. "Tilikum's life will always be inextricably connected with the loss of our dear friend and colleague, Dawn Brancheau. While we all experienced profound sadness about that loss, we continued to offer Tilikum the best care possible."
Some are disputing the marine park's claim that Tilikum led a "long and enriching life." CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, Wayne Pacelle, for example, claims that the killer whale was "caught up for decades in the old business model of captive orcas on display," and that his aggression was an effect of living in inhumane conditions. Pacelle did, however, express hope that "the era of keeping these great animals in captivity will actually end."
Animal rights activist organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), as well, had a less than optimistic response to the news. Activists stated that Tilikum died "after three decades of misery." On social media, the group wrote:
"It's no wonder Tilikum succumbed to mental illness under such conditions, and then finally, to incurable physical illness."
After Brauncheu's death, new rules were implemented to protect the employees and prevent future deaths. However, because Blackfish argued that life in tanks makes orcas more aggressive toward humans and each other, activists demanded more. In 2016, SeaWorld Entertainment officials announced that the tourist attraction would end its breeding program and theatrical shows involving the orcas. To this day, the marine park is still working to improve the company's share price, as well as attendance at shows.
Sea Shepherd Conservation Society launched a series of images today illustrating the tragic fates met by real-life captive cetaceans.
The images come just as the holiday season begins and families are making choices about how to spend their money on entertainment. The pictures are being published to educate and deter travelers around the world from buying tickets to marine shows, swim-with-dolphin programs and other similar animal encounter experiences.
The photos, featuring a dolphin, beluga and orca, respectively, show each animal breaking the water with their backs. Drops splash around them as they land from an aerial trick. Upon closer look, the viewer will see the drops of water are, in fact, broken glass. Each visual is accompanied by text that tells the true story of the mammal in the poster.
Sharky was held captive at SeaWorld properties.Sea Shepherd Conservation Society / Nicolas Dumenil
"That was the idea behind this campaign—to look closer and see what really happens to animals in marine parks," said Nicolas Dumenil, the Paris-based art director who created the designs for Sea Shepherd. "Going from a splash of water to a smash of glass was a simple but powerful way to illustrate the cruel reality of captivity. Marine parks work hard to hide what people should not see and work harder to engage in disinformation each time an animal dies in their parks."
Dumenil said he wanted to use stories of actual captive marine mammals for the campaign to remember and honor all of those who met similar tragic fates. The hardest part was choosing which ones to spotlight, especially as new deaths occurred, including the November 2016 passing of Aurora and Quila, a mother and daughter beluga pair who died nine days apart at the Vancouver Aquarium.
"Who will be next?" asked Dumenil. "Bucky, the 47-year old captive dolphin in Australia who is still jumping through hoops despite his history of cancer?"
Hugo was kept at the Miami SeaquariumSea Shepherd Conservation Society / Nicolas Dumenil
The art director said he grew up surfing in the oceans as a child and as such, was always concerned with the marine life around him.
"Now that I'm in a creative position, I felt it was time to take action," stated Dumenil. "I have long admired Sea Shepherd's commitment to save marine wildlife and am honored to team with them on this campaign. I hope the real-life stories of Hugo, Sharky and Nanuq can serve as reminders that animals are not here for our entertainment and must not be held prisoners, deprived from their natural settings and social structures."
Sharky and Nanuq were both held captive at SeaWorld properties, while Hugo was kept at the Miami Seaquarium. SeaWorld and other similar facilities have come under fire in recent years with blistering campaigns by animal activists since the 2013 release of the SeaWorld-critical documentary Blackfish.
"Every year Sea Shepherd's Cove Guardians document the atrocious dolphin drives in Taiji, Japan, where cetaceans are being slaughtered, torn apart from their families and transported to concentration camps masquerading as marine parks," Sea Shepherd Founder, president and CEO Captain Paul Watson said. "Nicolas' images are a wakeup call for those who think these animals actually like spinning in the air and giving rides to trainers on their backs."
Sea Shepherd COO David Hance agreed. "Having witnessed firsthand the atrocities in Taiji, I can attest to just how horrific life is as a captive prisoner in these parks," he said. "A captive life is no life for any animal. I hope everyone can make the humane and moral choice not to support marine parks this holiday season, or any season for that matter."
Meet Takara, a 25-year-old pregnant orca living in SeaWorld San Antonio in Texas. Takara's newborn, expected to arrive in Spring 2017, will be the last remaining orca to live its life in SeaWorld's tanks after the ocean park announced in March it would end its captive orca breeding program after years of campaigning from animal welfare groups and concerned citizens.
But in a new push from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), the animal rights group is calling on SeaWorld to allow Takara to give birth in a seaside sanctuary so that her calf will never have to see the inside of a concrete tank.
On its SeaWorld of Hurt website, PETA details the "tragic" story of Takara's life. In the wild, orcas often live with their mothers for life but Takara herself was born in captivity in SeaWorld San Diego in 1991. Her parents—Kasatka and Kotar—were caught in Iceland in 1978. Kasatka, Takara's mother, is currently at SeaWorld San Diego. Takara's father, Kotar, died in 1995 in San Antonio after a pool gate he was playing with accidentally closed onto his head and caused a fractured skull.
Takara has already given birth to four other calves, two of which were taken to other parks. Her daughter Kohana was born in 2002 when Takara was 11. At the age of 3, Kohana was transferred to the notorious Loro Parque in Spain in 2006. Her son, Trua, was born in 2005 and now lives in Florida. Takara's youngest children, Sakari and Kamea, born in 2010 and 2013 respectively, live with their mother in San Antonio.
In an Instagram video from Liberate Cetaceans, footage shot in December shows young Kamea possibly signaling to her mother, Takara, that she wants to nurse. Judging by the date the video was taken, is it likely that Takara was already pregnant. Liberate Cetaceans alleges that SeaWorld allowed Takara to get pregnant even though she was still nursing Kamea.
"Why did SeaWorld choose to breed (or allow to breed) a female with an already dependent calf?" the post reads. "What an incredibly immoral decision."
The post follows:
Takara is well known for being hormonal, unpredictable, and generally unpleasant during the early stages of pregnancy. This means Kamea will be at risk of being ignored and neglected or even attacked. When the new calf comes, Takara's focus will be on the calf and not Kamea. A still very dependent Kamea may find herself without her mother's affections/ attention and will have no other mature females to turn to for comfort. If Kamea is still nursing when the new calf comes along, not only will this put incredible stress on Takara, but this will also mean the calves are competing for milk.
On SeaWorld's own website, it states that "most killer whale calves born at SeaWorld generally nurse for about a year, but may continue to nurse occasionally for as long as two years. This corresponds with observations in the wild."
Crunching the math, Liberate Cetaceans brought attention to the frequency in which Takara has given birth while at SeaWorld's parks, a rate that appears to be unnatural in the wild.
In the wild females typically give birth to a calf every 6-10 years and have 4-6 calves in their lifetime. This will be Takara's fifth calf and (if born this year) her third calf in just 6 years! So many pregnancies close together will put a lot of pressure on her body. As wild females tend to have their first calf at 14/15 and Takara is 24 (first impregnated at 11) she should have only had 2 calves (maximum) at this point in her life, not 4 with another on the way! Takara had one Kohana taken from her when she was only 3, and was moved whilst pregnant away from her only male calf, Trua, who was also 3 at the time.
SeaWorld states on its website, "based on limited data collected from populations at sea and in zoological facilities, a female may bear a calf every 3 to 5 years. In some cases, a female may not have another calf for 10 years."
EcoWatch reached out to SeaWorld for comment on both PETA's campaign and the Liberate Cetaceans post. The company had not responded as of press time, but did respond via email Wednesday with this statement:
SeaWorld made historic decisions to make this the last generation of orca whales, end theatrical performances with the whales and partner with the Humane Society of the United States [HSUS]. Society has changed and we've changed with it. Unfortunately, it appears PETA hasn't.
Placing any of the orcas we care for into their proposed sea cages would expose them to disease, pollution and other man-made and natural disasters. PETA's ideas are simplistic and don't take into account that the majority of the whales at SeaWorld were born in human care or have spent almost their entire lives at our facilities. We're focusing our resources on real issues that help far more animals, like working with HSUS to fight commercial whaling, shark finning, and continuing our efforts to rescue, rehabilitate and release injured and sick animals to the wild. Read more here.
SeaWorld has faced intense scrutiny ever since the 2013 documentary Blackfish exposed the plight of orcas in captivity. The film has sparked a massive public outcry against keeping these large creatures in small tanks since in the wild they swim up to 100 miles per day.
SeaWorld has previously said that their killer whales would not survive in the wild if they were to be released. "SeaWorld has not collected an orca from the wild in almost 40 years, and the vast majority of our orcas were born under human care. These orcas have never lived in the wild and could not survive in oceans that include environmental concerns such as pollution and other man-made threats."
Alongside its announcement to cease captive orca breeding, SeaWorld is also phasing out its theatrical "Shamu" show. Instead, SeaWorld visitors will get to see the orcas in redesigned pools that have a more naturalistic setting. Guests will get to observe the creatures through "educational encounters" starting in the San Diego park in 2017, followed by the parks in San Antonio and Orlando.
In a sad twist, around the same time SeaWorld made the two announcements, Tilikum, the killer whale at the center of the Blackfish, was found to be in deteriorating health. SeaWorld's teams are treating him for what they believe is a bacterial infection in his lungs, the company said on its Facebook page.
SeaWorld’s Famous Whale and ‘Blackfish’ Star Is Dying https://t.co/UDPduvbYQj @seashepherd @pamfoundation @WWF @peta https://t.co/eM8beMgDll— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1457541556.0
Southwest Airlines has announced yesterday that they will end their long-standing partnership with SeaWorld at the end of this year.
In January, Sea Shepherd called upon Southwest Airlines to end the 25-year partnership and remove SeaWorld marketing from their planes. We even proposed a partnership of our own, and showed the airlines how great their planes would look if, instead of SeaWorld’s imprisoned orcas, they sported Sea Shepherd’s Jolly Roger—a logo that represents protecting marine life, not exploiting it. Though it doesn’t sound like they’ll be taking us up on our offer just yet, we are happy to report Southwest listened to calls to end the relationship from activists worldwide and is going to be removing SeaWorld’s name and images from their planes.
The companies have stated that they came to a mutual decision to end their relationship, with Southwest calling it a “business decision” to direct their focus internationally. But based on the enormous positive response that Sea Shepherd received following our proposal to Southwest Airlines, and the ever-growing backlash against SeaWorld in the wake of the ground-breaking documentary Blackfish, it is almost certain that the concerns of the public about SeaWorld’s treatment of its captive animals played a deciding role in Southwest’s decision.
As Sea Shepherd’s Cove Guardians have documented time and time again in Taiji, Japan, there is bloodshed behind the aquarium industry. In Taiji, in the infamous cove, entire pods of dolphins and small whales are driven in by boats and either killed or separated from their family forever to become a performing spectacle in captivity. They’re sent not only to marine parks in Taiji but elsewhere around the globe. The captive selection occurs simultaneously to the slaughter, despite claims from Taiji officials and fisheries. It is undeniable–the captive marine mammal industry, of which SeaWorld is a key player, is inextricably linked to the killing of wild marine mammals.
Though SeaWorld emphasizes that they do not have animals from drive hunts like the one in Taiji, recently they quietly received a permit from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to import Kirara, a Pacific white-sided dolphin who was born in captivity in Japan, but whose wild parents were kidnapped from their ocean home. They will also obtain wild-caught beluga whales from Russia, if the Georgia Aquarium succeeds in their lawsuit against NOAA to import them into the U.S. and scatter them to various aquariums and parks. This is all in addition to the blood already on SeaWorld’s hands—a grim history of animals dying prematurely in their “care” and trainers being injured and even killed by stressed, desperate captive whales.
Sea Shepherd applauds Southwest Airlines’ decision to fly into a future that is becoming more and more possible—one in which tanks are empty and the oceans are full, in which the killing ends in Taiji because people will no longer support the captive industry that funded it, and in which cetaceans are finally left to swim freely in their ocean home with their families.
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