Activists blame life in captivity for baby orca's death at SeaWorld

Kyara with her mom Takara. Credit SeaWorld

The last killer whale to be born in captivity at SeaWorld died of suspected pneumonia on Monday, the company said in a statement.

Though the company refrained from offering an official cause of death, pending a postmortem conducted by the veterinarian team, it noted "we know that Kyara had an infection, likely pneumonia". Kyara's mother, Takara, was pregnant at the time of the announcement.

The water park said the 3-month-old whale calf was being treated for an infection.

Twitter (TWTR) has exploded with anti-SeaWorld comments, many blaming the company for Kyara's death and calling for SeaWorld to shut down its parks and release its animals to seaside sanctuaries. She had been under 24-hour watch and was hand-fed to enhance her nutrition.

As SeaWorld was announcing Kyara's death at its Texas park, Oscar-nominated actor James Cromwell was in handcuffs at its San Diego attraction after staging a demonstration over orcas in captivity.

The decision to end the program came in response to intense scrutiny after the airing of a 2013 documentary "Blackfish", which claimed animal abuse occurred against orcas at SeaWorld parks.

SeaWorld welcomed Kyara into the world in April, heralding the calf's birth to 25-year-old Takara as "an exciting and emotional day for us". SeaWorld said it is monitoring the health of its other killer whales for any signs of illness. Tilikum died in January.

SeaWorld has announced plans to introduce new "natural orca encounters" in place of theatrical shows.

Kyara was the last orca whale to be born at a SeaWorld park.

SeaWorld has 22 orcas left in the U.S. The youngest, Amaya, was born in December 2014.

SeaWorld has not collected a wild orca in almost 40 years, and most of its orcas were born in captivity.

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