Kiska, the country’s last captive orca, has died after swimming alone in her tank at Canada’s Marineland theme park.
Brent Ross, a spokesman for the ministry of the solicitor general in Ontario, which oversees animal welfare in the province, said Monday that the theme park in Ontario’s Niagara Falls notified the province of the death last week.
Kiska is believed to be 47 years old and has lived in Marineland since her capture in Icelandic waters in 1979. He was captured with Keiko, who became famous in the film “Free Willy”, and the pair lived together at Marineland for a few years. in the 1980s. Keiko was sold to an aquarium in Mexico in 1985 and eventually ended up at SeaWorld in the US
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Kiska appeared in shows at Marineland for years but did not perform for over a decade. She spent that time in the park’s Friendship Cove, a large pool that was separate from pods of belugas.
SeaWorld has also discontinued its theatrical shows with orcas and ended its breeding program in 2017, meaning its current orcas will be the brand’s last generation in captivity.
Marineland Park told the Niagara Falls Review newspaper that the killer whale’s health has recently declined “despite intense intervention” by theme park staff and an international team of veterinarians.
Ross said professionals hired by Marineland performed the autopsy on Friday in the presence of provincial officials.
Marineland owner Mary Holler declined to comment.
In 2021, the province found there were problems with the theme park’s water system and ordered repairs to the pools, which contain belugas, dolphins, walruses, sea lions and kiska, court documents show. Marineland initially appealed the order, denying the findings, but later dropped the appeal.
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The province has inspected the theme park 160 times since January 2020, but has refused to release the findings of the inspections.
Christine Santos, who trained Kiska for 12 years until Marineland fired her in 2012, said she was shocked by the news of the death.
“But at the same time I’m really relieved that she’s not alone anymore,” Santos said.
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Kiska was calm and easy to work with but sometimes mischievous. Santos said, he sometimes tricked new trainers into giving him “more fish and more rubs”.
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