SeaWorld Euthanizes 42-Year-Old 'Matriarch' Orca Whale

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The killer whale had not been responding to treatment for a bacterial respiratory infection, and caretakers chose to euthanize her "to prevent compromising her quality of life", the park said earlier this week in a statement.

Kasatka is the third whale this year owned by SeaWorld to have died.

She was estimated to be 42 years old - SeaWorld's second-oldest orca after Corky, which is believed to be 53.

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

Burtis added, "Although I am heartbroken, 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". Kasatka was 41. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries says that in the wild, "females typically live about 50 years, but can live as long as 100 years".

Kasatka was the company's second death of a killer whale in a month at one of its marine parks.

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'I adored Kasatka and loved sharing her with millions of people.

"I have spent the past several years with Kasatka and was truly blessed to be part of her life", orca behaviorist Kristi Burtis said.

"I tried to get the media to expose it, I tried to have ANYONE force them to take pics of her", he tweeted following the death. SeaWorld said it is the most common cause of death for whales.

Kasatka - a mother of four, grandmother of six and great grandmother of two - died around 8:15 p.m. Tuesday at SeaWorld San Diego's Orca Encounter facility following a lengthy treatment for a bacterial respiratory infection, according to park officials.

SeaWorld came under heavy pressure after the documentary Blackfish criticised the practices of keeping captive orcas. Its stock has fallen by almost a third since the beginning of the year.

Last year, SeaWorld promised to stop breeding killer whales in captivity.

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SeaWorld has 21 orcas left in the US.

After the film was released, attendances at SeaWorld fell, as did the company's share price.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund says SeaWorld worked to hide Kasatka's declining health for years before ultimately euthanizing her.

PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman said in a statement that SeaWorld "didn't even respect this orca enough to give her a good-quality life, and it needs to send the remaining marine mammals to seaside sanctuaries before they follow Kasatka - and the 40 orcas before her - to the grave".

The deaths of the mammals has led to further calls from animal rights campaigners for SeaWorld to release animals it now has in its care.

Kyara - the last to be born in captivity - was treated for an infection that was most likely pneumonia.

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