SeaWorld Orca Dies at 30 Years Old

Kayla, the second oldest orca ever to be born in captivity, died this past January. At 30 years old, SeaWorld officials report that Kayla was in healthy conditions. However, she suddenly began to show signs of discomfort and within 24 hours, her condition worsened significantly. Kayla died within two days of initially showing symptoms. The exact cause of her death will not be known for weeks, until the park has received results of her post-mortem examination.

Certainly, the spontaneity of Kayla’s death seems to be odd and questionable. Nonetheless, the fact that she died at merely 30 years old is also alarming. In fact, National Geographic states that, in the wild, an orca’s life span is between 50 and 80 years; in some instances, killer whales can live to be 100 years old. When discussing the circumstances of Kayla’s death, Dr. Naomi Rose, a marine-mammal scientist at the Animal Welfare Institute, spoke to South Florida Sun Sentinel and stated that “30 is prime of life. That’s like literally being a 30-year-old woman.”. This clearly highlights the unusualness of Kayla’s death.

However, SeaWorld has publicly expressed that their orca breeding program culminated in 2016. Parting from this date, the park has also redirected their orca performances to be more educational and less theatrical, and they were scheduled to be completely eliminated during 2019. This has caused SeaWorld to suffer some financial struggles during the past years, which has led them to open new attractions to compensate for the lack of performances.  

Infinity Falls, one of SeaWorld's newest attractions

Despite Kayla’s recent death and the elimination of the breeding program, SeaWorld still has 20 orcas at their parks, located in different cities across the US. The Orlando park is concerned for the well-being of their five remaining orcas after Kayla’s passing. Park officials feel that said event can have a social effect upon the other killer whales, so they will be monitored. In regards to Kayla’s death, the company has expressed that she “inspired generations of guests and employees to care and learn more about this amazing species”.