What Kasatka's Obituary Should Have Said
Following a years-long battle with chronic illness, on August 15th, SeaWorld San Diego decided to euthanize their female orca named Kasatka. The formerly wild orca, stolen from her natural Icelandic pod in October 1978, was a goldmine for SeaWorld.
Kasatka was only 41 years old, but SeaWorld made it count. In their obituary of her, the park described her as, "a mother of four, grandmother of six and great-grandmother of two." Essentially, she lined their pockets for years, as will her progeny now that she's gone.
Captured at the estimated age of two years, Kasatka spent 39 years in a warped interpretation of "Groundhog Day." Any diversion she encountered was mostly of her own creation. As a result, there were times when the orca just snapped. SeaWorld trainer Ken Peters paid for Kasatka's frustration twice, in two separate attacks.
Despite her aggressive outbursts, Kasatka was one of SeaWorld's most successful breeders and a good mother. Kasatka delivered her first calf on July 9, 1991, a female named Takara. A decade later in 2001, after being artificially inseminated with Tilikum's sperm, she delivered a male calf named Nakai.
A mere three years would pass before she delivered her third calf, another female named Kalia. Despite the diagnosis of a chronic lung condition in 2008, SeaWorld artificially inseminated Kasatka with the sperm from Kshamenk, an Argentinian orca held in deplorable conditions at Mundo Marino. Makani was born in 2013.
By 2016, Kasatka was ailing enough for SeaWorld to issue a statement about her condition which they now described as "a bacterial respiratory infection." In June of this year, photographs surfaced showing the orca's terrible condition. Those who saw how Kasatka was suffering held out little hope for her recovery. Voice of the Orcas, the group of former SeaWorld trainers who starred in the documentary "Blackfish", described her "impending death" as another tragic side-effect of captivity.
When John Hargrove, fellow cast member, former SeaWorld trainer and author of the New York Times bestselling book, "Beneath the Surface", saw the images of Kasatka, he told the Dolphin Project, "sadly, when I look at this photo, all I see is a diseased whale."
Less than two months later, SeaWorld announced that they had euthanized Kasatka.
It would have been better left there.
But there had to be an obituary.
One that was more about SeaWorld than Kasatka.
For an orca that once belonged to the ocean and at that time, everyone, it felt like acid was poured onto Kasatka's festering body.
"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."
That is 125 million paying park guests.
As if in appeasement, SeaWorld vowed to conduct a necropsy to examine the extent of her illness and how it impacted her organ function. It is unlikely that the public will gain access to it. The park already announced its intention to never release Tilikum's necropsy report. It doesn't have to. Prior to 1994, SeaWorld was required by law to provide necropsy results to the federal government. This made them available to the public via the Freedom of Information Act. In 1994, intense lobbying by the industry changed all that. Congress amended the Marine Mammal Protection Act and all SeaWorld has to provide now, is the cause of death. The public will only learn whatever SeaWorld wants them to.
If there is some consolation, it rests within Kasatka's family tree. It is truly representative of the life she lived.
Kasatka gave SeaWorld four offspring: Takara; Nakai; Kalia and Makani. Makani at just four years old has lost his mother. Takara was taken from Kasatka and now lives at SeaWorld Texas. She has produced five calves of her own: Kohana (2002); Trua (2005); Sakari (2010); Kamea (2013) and Kyara (2017).
Kohana, like her mother before her, was separated from Takara and sent to Loro Parque in 2006. Trua is apart from both his mom and his sisters and resides at SeaWorld Orlando. Kamea, who remains at the Texas park was another calf born as a result of artificial insemination. Kamea's sire is also Kshamenk, meaning mother (Kasatka) and daughter (Takara) were both impregnated by sperm from the same whale. Kyara, Takara's newest offspring recently died at three months old. Sakari, Kamea and Kyara's births meant that Takara birthed three calves for SeaWorld in just seven years. In the wild, NOAA Fisheries estimates that natural births occur, "every 5 years for an average period of 25 years."
Kasatka's other daughter Kalia gave SeaWorld yet another calf in Amaya who was born in 2014. Kohana, was just four years old when she was taken from Takara and sent to Tenerife, There, she was bred to her own uncle twice and gave birth to Adan and Victoria. Without the advantage of Takara's presence, Kohana never learned what being a mother entailed, and as a result, she abandoned both of her calves to be hand raised by Loro Parque staff. Victoria died in 2013, she was not even one year old.
This is Kasatka's true and tragic legacy. Don't buy a damn ticket.