As if Sea World needs any more negative publicity, another whale has died at its San Antonio, Texas park. The recent death of the 18-year-old orca bring the number to three this year. Unna died after being under constant care for months for a resistant strain of fungus called Candida, according to the company.
In November, a beluga whale died of gastrointestinal problems. Months prior, another beluga died after being born prematurely. SeaWorld released a statement according to the Washington Post saying, “After a review of each of these cases, none of the issues were related to each other, or to the care that the animals received, which is the care that SeaWorld is world-renowned for.”
Many opposing the park’s practice of keeping orcas captive are wanting better answers. Unna was the daughter of Tilikum, the whale featured in the 2013 documentary Blackfish, which showed the lives of killer whales in an especially bleak light and blamed SeaWorld for causing Tilikum to become violent and kill three people.
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John Hargrove, a former SeaWorld trainer who appeared in the documentary, has written a book speaking out against the park’s practices. He told takepart.com that Unna had been sick for many years, and the account of her death offered by Sea World is bogus.
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According to SeaWorld, Candida is an organism commonly found on whales and has been found to cause their death in the wild and in captivity. When conventional treatments failed, several experts in veterinary medicine, fungi, and nephrology came together to adapt a treatment typically given to humans into something for Unna. Researchers are saying that Unna’s illness might have been caused by stress and a compromised immune system.
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Activists in California are making progress in their efforts to end the park’s orca program. The California Coastal Commission banned the breeding of orcas in captivity as well as their sale, trade, or transfer, earlier this year. Soon after, SeaWorld San Diego announced it will no longer feature its “Shamu” performances.
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