Killer Whale Dies at SeaWorld Park in San Antonio

December 22, 2015, 10:02 PM UTC
Killer Whale Kills Trainer Before Show At SeaWorld
ORLANDO - FEBRUARY 24: The sign at the entrance to SeaWorld February 24, 2010 in Orlando, Florida. A female trainer who presumably slipped and fell in to a holding tank was fatally injured after she was attacked by an orca. This is the third human death associated with the killer whale according to the Humane Society of the United States. (Photo by Matt Stroshane/Getty Images)
Photograph by Matt Stroshane — Getty Images

By Jim Forsyth

SAN ANTONIO, Dec 22 (Reuters) – An 18-year-old killer whale has died at the SeaWorld (SEAS) park in San Antonio, the park said on Tuesday, raising concern among animal groups that have criticized the company for years over its treatment of captive marine mammals.

The female whale, named Unna, was the third whale to die at the Texas park in six months.

SeaWorld said in a statement that Unna died on Monday from a “resistant strain of a fungus called Candida.” The killer whale, or orca, had been treated by experts from around the country, it added.

“While there were some indications that the treatment was having a positive effect, Unna had remained in serious condition and under 24/7 care,” SeaWorld said, adding that a necropsy will be conducted.

SeaWorld has faced heated criticism and declining revenues since the release of the 2013 documentary film “Blackfish,” which depicted the captivity and public exhibition of killer whales as inherently cruel.

The film, which SeaWorld has criticized as inaccurate and misleading, also explored the circumstances leading to the 2010 death of a top SeaWorld trainer, who was pulled underwater and drowned by an orca she had performed with in Florida.

SeaWorld in San Diego recently announced plans to suspend its live whale shows. But the other SeaWorld parks, including the one in San Antonio, say they will continue, contending the orcas are well treated.

Critics contend it is inhumane to confine the intelligent and wide-ranging orcas at sea parks, where they perform in circus-like shows.

(Reporting by Jim Forsyth; Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Dan Grebler)