Sad news from SeaWorld, their last orca calf has died

Kyara with her mom, Takara. Credit: SeaWorld

This news must be heartbreaking for those who spent almost two years in waiting for and caring for Kyara, SeaWorld’s last captive bred baby whale. No matter what your views on captivity, the whales require an enormous amount of daily care by people who are genuinely dedicated and concerned about their welfare and those people deserve acknowledgement for the difficult time they must be going through.
In SeaWorld’s statement below it is reported that Kyara’s family is already back to normal, which implies either the whales don’t know that the calf is dead or that she was dead to them once she was taken away for treatment – either way, it has to been difficult for the calf’s family.
Whales and dolphins have been shown to need time to grieve (Adult Male Pilot Whale Carries Dead Calf; Cetaceans Need Time To Grieve)  and I hope the calf’s family was given time with her body even though it is not traditionally done in captivity. Wild orca mothers have shown what is interpreted as mourning (Mother Orca And Her Dead Calf: A Mother’s Grief? ) so it is logical to think that this would be true in captivity as well.
Be that as it may, SeaWorld has been relatively forthcoming and has given a somewhat detailed report on Kyara’s death – in the past they would have covered up or clammed up entirely. It’s progress.

SeaWorld Is Saddened To Announce The Passing Of Kyara

July 24, 2017
This weekend Kyara, the 3-month-old killer whale calf at SeaWorld San Antonio, was being treated at the park’s Animal Hospital for an infection. The dedicated team of veterinarians and care staff spent the last three days providing critical care for Kyara, but despite their best efforts, her health continued to decline and she passed away earlier today.
She was surrounded by the dedicated teams that cared for her over the last three months and fought tirelessly for her over the last several days.
Julie, just one of the orca trainers that spent countless hours caring for the San Antonio orca pod, including many nights with the calf, said “Kyara had a tremendous impact on each of her care staff, not to mention all of the guests that had the chance to see her. From late nights to early morning, rain or shine, we dedicate our lives to these animals, and this loss will be felt throughout the entire SeaWorld family.”
The team’s attention now turns to the rest of the orca pod, especially Takara, to provide the care and attention they need. The veterinary team will conduct a full post mortem examination to determine the cause of death. It may take several weeks before results are finalized.The global SeaWorld team is united in support of our San Antonio family as they go through this extremely difficult time.
Question & Answer:
When did Kyara die?
Kyara passed away early today, July 24, surrounded by the dedicated SeaWorld staff that not only cared for her for the last several months, as well as the staff that fought tireless to save her life over the last several days.
How did Kyara die?
Kyara had faced some very serious and progressive health issues over the last week that the animal care and veterinary teams had been aggressively treating. While the official cause of death will not be determined until the post-mortem exam is complete, we know that Kyara had an infection, likely pneumonia, and that her health continued to decline.
When was Kyara born?
Kyara was born in April to mom Takara at SeaWorld San Antonio.
Do you know what illness she had?
While the official cause of death won’t be determined until the post-mortem exam is complete, through monitoring Kyara’s behavior, and a physical examination, SeaWorld’s veterinary and animal care teams identified that she had an infection, likely pneumonia, that they were aggressively  treating. Pneumonia has been identified as one of the most common causes of morbidity or illness in whales and dolphins, both in the wild and in aquariums.
Why did you remove Kyara from her mom?
Our primary concern was the health of Kyara. The expert veterinary and animal care teams made the decision to bring Kyara to the husbandry pool at the Animal Hospital to ensure she received the necessary hydration and treatment. Additionally, Kyara had not been receiving the daily nutrition that she needed, so the teams supplemented that nutrition through hand-feeding multiple times each day.
How were you treating her? What medications was she receiving? 
Kyara was under 24-hr care and watch at the animal hospital at SeaWorld San Antonio. In addition to monitoring her 24/7, the expert veterinary staff was treating her with antimicrobials, including antibiotics, for any infections she was fighting. Additionally, the team was hand-feeding her in an effort to ensure she received the nutrition she needed.
How is her mom, Takara, and the rest of the pod doing? 
Takara’s behavior was back to normal by the end of the weekend. Additionally, the rest of the pod is responding well and behaving normally. While the loss of Kyara is heartbreaking for the animal care, veterinary and training teams, as well as the entire SeaWorld family, our focus is now on continuing the care of the rest of the orca pod back at Shamu Stadium.
Is there any chance other killer whales will get this illness?
No other members of the SeaWorld San Antonio orca pod are showing any signs of illness, but they continued to be monitored and cared for by SeaWorld’s expert veterinary and animal care teams.
How will this impact the killer whale shows?
The One Ocean shows at SeaWorld San Antonio will be cancelled for the rest of the day, July 24. Guests should check the SeaWorldSanAntonio.com website, or with Guest Services, for scheduling for thre rest of the week.
Was this caused by being in captivity?
No, Kyara’s pneumonia has been identified as the most common cause of mortality and illness in whales in dolphins, both in the wild and in zoological facilities.
Will you make the results of the necropsy public?
Post mortem exams are detailed clinical investigations that include a good deal of laboratory testing. We will provide an update on SeaWorldCares.com as soon as the full results have come back.

Rescued orca Springer has had a second calf – join the celebration

ORPHAN ORCA SPRINGER GIVES BIRTH TO SECOND CALF
The heroic rescue in Puget Sound fifteen years ago of the orphaned orca Springer (A-73) and her return home 300 miles north to Johnstone Strait will be celebrated July 21-23 at Telegraph Cove, British Columbia.

Springer was rescued and returned to her family in 2002. Photo credit: Vancouver Aquarium

“Fifteen and half years ago Springer was orphaned, 300 miles from home, starving, sick and completely alone,” said Dr. Lance Barrett-Lennard, director of the Cetacean Research Program at Ocean Wise. “Her rescue, relocation, reunification with relatives and transition to motherhood is an incredible story. I see it as testimony to both the resiliency of killer whales as a species and to the wonderful things we humans can do when we work together on behalf of — rather than against — nature.”
Fifteen years later, Springer is still healthy and now has given birth to her second calf. The new baby was first spotted by CetaceaLab on BC’s north central coast on June 5th and confirmed by a Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) research survey. Springer’s first calf, Spirit, was born in 2013.
Springer and her new calf. Photo credit: Lisa Spaven, Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada

“Springer’s story is an inspiration on many levels,” said Paul Spong of OrcaLab.  “It proved that an orphan orca, alone and separated from her family, can be rehabilitated and returned to a normal productive life with her family and community; and it showed that disparate parties with diverse interests can come together and work together for the common goal of helping one little whale.”
“Celebrate Springer!” brings together the 2002 rescue team to give first-hand accounts of how Springer was identified, rescued and rehabilitated. She was taken by jet catamaran to the north end of Vancouver Island and reunited with her Northern Resident family.
“We can hardly believe it has been 15 years since Springer was reunited with her family.  We encourage everyone to come and celebrate this milestone with us at the Whale Interpretive Centre in Telegraph Cove,” said Mary Borrowman, director of the Center. “The most exciting news is the confirmation that Springer has had another calf and we hope we will be fortunate enough to see this famous mother with her family this summer.”

  • The public is invited to Telegraph Cove at 11 AM on July 22 to hear “Springer’s Story,” a slide show narration by members of Springer’s rescue team, followed by a panel discussion.
  • At 4 PM, the new Telegraph Cove Whale Trail sign will be dedicated.
  • At 5:30 PM, the public is invited to join in for a salmon dinner on the Boardwalk.

 
“The Springer success story continues to be an inspiration for all of us working on conservation in the Salish Sea,” said Lynne Barre, the lead for orca recovery at NOAA Fisheries’ West Coast regional office in Seattle. “The partnerships created during Springer’s rescue provide a strong foundation for international cooperation as well as coordination between government, state, tribal, and non-profit groups to benefit both Northern and Southern Resident killer whales.”
“Springer’s reunion is an unqualified success – the only project of its kind in history,” said Donna Sandstrom, director of The Whale Trail and co-organizer of “Celebrate Springer!” Telegraph Cove event. “To get the little whale home, we had to learn how to work together, as organizations, agencies and nations. Above all, we put her best interests first. Community members played a key role in shaping Springer’s fate.  We hope her story inspires people to join us in working on issues facing our endangered southern resident orcas today, with the same urgency, commitment, and resolve.”
For more information, check out Springer Facebook Page  and The Whale Trail.