6-Year-Old Female Orca Amaya Dies at SeaWorld, Park Unclear on Cause of Death

by Jennifer Shea
Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

A 6-year-old female orca whale named Amaya died at SeaWorld yesterday. And the San Diego marine park does not know why.

Amaya’s death reportedly surprised her handlers. They were by her side Thursday when she died. The whale began to show signs of illness on Wednesday, according to TMZ.

A park spokesperson told TMZ that animal care specialists and veterinarians started treating Amaya on Wednesday. Unfortunately, “despite her care team’s efforts, Amaya’s condition continued to deteriorate. Her death was sudden and unexpected.”

Orca Was Helping Park Research Calf Development

According to the SeaWorld spokesperson, Amaya was “one of the most playful whales in our pod” and she loved “interacting with her animal care specialists.”

That particular orca was key in helping the park to research calf development, the spokesperson added.

Both of Amaya’s parents, Kalia and Ulises, are still alive and at the marine park.

“This is a very difficult time for those who knew and loved Amaya,” SeaWorld said in a statement. “She inspired millions of guests to appreciate and learn more about this amazing species. The specialists who cared for her at SeaWorld are heartbroken.”

SeaWorld Settled Lawsuit Over 2013 Documentary

The 2013 documentary “Blackfish” followed the fate of captive whale Tilikum, who killed trainer Dawn Brancheau at SeaWorld Orlando in 2010. “Blackfish” charged SeaWorld with orca abuse (in the wild, orcas rarely if ever attack humans).

The documentary led animal rights activists to escalate their campaigns against SeaWorld and prompted a few entertainers to cancel scheduled performances. Those factors, combined with declining ticket sales, spurred the park to stop breeding orcas in captivity.

Meanwhile, a lawsuit accused SeaWorld of lying to investors about how badly that documentary had dented its finances. SeaWorld settled the lawsuit for $65 million last year, CBS News reported.

SeaWorld did not have to admit any fault, liability or wrongdoing under the terms of the settlement, which ended a protracted legal battle. It did have to pay $65 million for alleged violations of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, plus legal expenses.

Separately, both SeaWorld and its former CEO James Atchison also paid over $5 million for misleading investors about the backlash from “Blackfish” in 2018.

In 2020, SeaWorld said its trainers would no longer ride dolphins at SeaWorld parks, bowing to demands from animal rights activists. For over a year, activists had been pushing the company to ban the stunt.