SeaWorld Euthanizes 42-Year-Old ‘Matriarch’ Orca Whale

August 17, 2017, 5:30 PM UTC
kasatka matriarch seaworld killer whale dies
In this handout image provided by SeaWorld San Diego, a baby killer whale, born December 21 swims with its mother, Kasatka, a 28-year-old whale December 23, 2004 at SeaWorld in San Diego, California. After a nearly 18-month gestation, Kasatka's calf, estimated to weigh between 300 and 350 pounds and measure between 6 to 7 feet, was born in Shamu Stadium's main show pool following a little more than two hours of labor. (Photo by Mike Aguilera/SeaWorld San Diego via Getty Images)
Mike Aguilera — SeaWorld San Diego via Getty Images

SeaWorld San Diego has euthanized Kasatka, the nearly 42-year-old matriarch of its orca family, who had been afflicted with a lung disease.

Kasatka died on Tuesday “surrounded by members of her pod, as well as the veterinarians and caretakers who loved her,” SeaWorld announced in a statement. She had been battling a bacterial respiratory infection. The orca’s health and appetite took a dive recently, leading her medical team to decide euthanasia was the best route.

The killer whale clan’s matriarch leaves behind a family legacy. She had four children, six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, according to the park.

“All of us at SeaWorld are deeply saddened by this loss, but thankful for the joy she has brought us and more than 125 million park guests,” the statement said.

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Kasatka had undergone treatment for the infection for years. SeaWorld said it is the most common cause of death for whales.

The orca is the third SeaWorld whale to die this year, after an adult died from a lung infection in January and a 3-month-old that died while being treated for an infection in July.