Keepers and animal rights activists are mourning the passing of the last orca bred in captivity under SeaWorld’s breeding program, which ended in 2016. The calf, named Kyara, was just three-months-old when she perished at the establishment’s San Antonio, Texas, park due to an unknown illness. Regrettably, she is the third killer whale to die at a SeaWorld park in 18 months.

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According to a statement made by SeaWorld on July 25, the exact cause of Kyara’s death is presently unknown. Additionally, the results of the post-mortem will take several weeks to be completed. Leading up to the calf’s death, however, she was being treated for a serious case of pneumonia. The marine park establishment is adamant the illness is not a result of living in captivity. In a statement, SeaWorld wrote that pneumonia is “the most common cause of mortality and illness in whales in dolphins, both in the wild and in zoological facilities.”

“We’ve also had a lot of questions about how the orca pod in San Antonio is doing. We’ve checked in with the trainers, veterinarians and staff who all say that Takara and the orca pod are doing well,” the statement added. “They have been active all day and are engaging with the trainers, and we will continue to monitor any changes in their behavior.”

SeaWorld announced it would end its controversial captive breeding program three years after the controversial documentary Blackfish was produced. The BAFTA-nominated film informed the public of the serious ethical concerns which result from keeping orcas in captivity and the questionable tactics used by employees to “train” orcas. Due to public outcry and plummeting ticket sales, the enterprise had no choice but to shut down the program.

SeaWorld, killer whale, orca, Kyara, San Antonio, Texas, 3 months old, captivity, wildlife

It is assumed that Kyara’s mother, Takara, became pregnant with the calf around the same time, as gestation in an orca lasts between 12 to 18 months. Because Kyara was the last killer whale bred in captivity, she was a treasure at SeaWorld. However, there is a reason the public requested SeaWorld end its breeding program, and that is because the mammals have been known to thrive beyond 100-years-old in the wild. Sadly, the young calf survived only three months in captivity.

Related: Meet the 103-Year-Old Granny Orca That Spells Bad News for SeaWorld’s PR

Upon hearing the news, John Hargrove, a former orca trainer at SeaWorld who appeared in Blackfish, tweeted: “I am grateful Tiki’s calf only lived for 3 months in a concrete box deprived of all things natural. For Takara, my heart is broken in pieces.” He added, “It’s an absolute insult to every one of us that they keep saying ‘healthy and thriving’ as they are dying from disease right in front of us.”

Via NBC News

Images via SeaWorld, Pixabay