Another Orca Has Died at SeaWorld Orlando

Like too many captive orcas before her, Kayla, who was the second oldest born in captivity, never got to experience freedom outside of a small tank. The 30-year-old orca died much too young at SeaWorld Orlando on Jan. 28 after a sudden illness.

When Kayla started showing signs of discomfort two days before she died, veterinarians treated her around the clock, to no avail.

“Any loss of a SeaWorld family member brings great sadness,” the tourist attraction wrote in a blog post announcing her death. “Kayla’s care team shares a special bond with her and is deeply saddened by her death.” Many of us who care about the welfare of orcas are also deeply saddened—and extremely angered—by Kayla’s death.

She is the fourth orca to die at a SeaWorld park since 2017. Tillikum, who was the subject of the 2013 documentary Blackfish, died of pneumonia at SeaWorld Orlando in January 2017. Six months later, Kyara, the last orca calf born in captivity, died when she was only three months old at SeaWorld San Antonio. The following month, an orca named Katasha died of lung disease at SeaWorld San Diego.

Including Kayla, at least 49 orcas have died at SeaWorld parks. Kayla was the first killer whale born at SeaWorld San Antonio in 1988. She spent much of her early life being shipped back and forth between the company’s parks, WTSP reports. In 1990, at the age of only two, Kayla had been taken away from her mother and sent to SeaWorld Ohio, which has since closed. The company then sent her back to San Antonio and later relocated her to Orlando, where she had lived since 2006.

In 2005, Kayla gave birth to a calf named Halyn. Kayla rejected the calf, who was then hand-raised by SeaWorld employees. Halyn died from a brain infection at SeaWorld San Antonio when she was only two years old. Like so many other captive orcas, Kayla and her calf died much too young, as did Kayla’s parents.

Her mother, Kenau, died at 15 and her father, Orky 2, died at 26. The average life expectancy for killer whales in the wild is 50 years. Some have lived 80 to 90 years, Dr. Naomi Rose, a marine mammal scientist with the Animal Welfare Institute, told the Orlando Sentinel. Dying as Kayla did at 30 is “not normal,” she said.

Due to the backlash from Blackfish, which resulted in a major drop in attendance and loss of profits, SeaWorld stopped its orca breeding program in 2016. But the company has refused to release its 20 remaining orcas to sanctuaries.

The cause of Kayla’s sudden death is currently a mystery and will be determined by a necropsy. We may not know the results for weeks.

“While today is a difficult day for all of us at SeaWorld, Kayla inspired generations of guests and employees to care and learn more about this amazing species,” the company said in its statement. If these inspired guests and employees truly care, they should do what they can to help free SeaWorld’s 20 remaining orcas from captivity.

Take Action

  • To honor Kayla’s memory and help other killer whales from suffering the same fate, please sign and share this petition urging the U.S. Congress to pass a federal law that prohibits keeping orcas in captivity.
  • Boycott SeaWorld and all other tourist attractions that profit from captive animals.

If you want to make a difference on an issue you find deeply troubling, you too can create a Care2 petition, and use this handy guide to get started. You’ll find Care2’s vibrant community of activists ready to step up and help you.


Photo credit: @Quad_Finn/Twitter


Past Member
Past Member 2 months ago

This petition just shows again how much the petitioner does not know - please stop sending me these petitions that slam SeaWorld and their care of the Orcas that live there. They were all born in captivity and can not survive in the ocean. They are well cared for and loved beyond words. They teach and show children so more can be born and live in the ocean - before the humans destroy it.

joan s
joan silaco2 months ago

All this for a very short life span, to make a few bucks?

Amy H
Amy Haber2 months ago

thise is so sad i hate sea world

Colin C
Colin Clauscen2 months ago

Just close these zoos down best solution

Cathy B
Cathy B2 months ago

Apply public boycott pressure until the tanks are empty !!

Michael Friedmann
Michael F2 months ago

Thank You for Sharing This !!!

Melanie St. Germaine

So heartbreaking :(

Maureen w
Maureen welch2 months ago

The only reason they see this as a "difficult day" Is because they will no longer be able to exploit Kayla for their financial gain.

salah zoubiri
salah zoubiri2 months ago

This needs to stop

salah zoubiri
salah zoubiri2 months ago