What’s Killing the Orcas at SeaWorld?

Nyar, a killer whale born in 1993 at SeaWorld Orlando, was rejected and bullied so badly by her mother that she had to be separated in her own pool — and her condition went downhill from there.

The “super-friendly” young orca became weaker while taking medication several times a day for a fungal infection, said John Jett, who worked with her while he was a trainer at the park. She eventually had to be force-fed with a bottle and a stomach tube when she became too feeble to lift her head on the side of the tank for meals, he said. Finally, Nyar died at age two from the infection in her brain.

“It was a really pitiful case,” said Jett, who left his job as a trainer at SeaWorld Orlando shortly after Nyar died in April 1996. “When she died, I had had enough.”

Nyar’s illness is common at SeaWorld’s parks in San Antonio, Orlando and San Diego, where almost 150 sea lions, beluga whales, orcas and other dolphins have died from infections since 1986, out of a total of 816 listed under the parks’ care, according to information reported by SeaWorld to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and analyzed by the San Antonio Express-News.

In San Antonio, five dolphins, whales and sea lions have died from infections since May 2014 and another three from inflammatory diseases, including Stella the beluga whale before Thanksgiving from inflammation of the brain and Unna the killer whale around Christmas from a bacterial infection. Dart, a Pacific white-sided dolphin, died in February from a fungal infection in her brain.

“Infectious disease is the number one cause of death in animals both in the wild as well as animals that live in managed care,” said Chris Dold, SeaWorld’s vice president of veterinary services. “The number of animals that come in and die of infectious disease in our rescue and rehabilitation programs greatly outnumbers the number of animals that die within our parks.”

Infections have caused more than 35 percent of marine mammal deaths at the parks, while another 11 percent were due to disorders often caused by infections, such as inflammation of the brain and intestines, records show.

They have been especially deadly for orcas and other dolphins, contributing to 60 percent of the deaths of orcas at the three parks and 55 percent for bottlenose and Pacific white-sided dolphins, according to the data, which was obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request. The rates are lower for harbor seals, with 37 percent; beluga whales, with 30 percent; and California sea lions, with 25 percent, the data show.

The full article can be found at Expressnews.atavist.com


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