Death of Marineland’s Kiska marks the end of orca captivity in Canada

Photo by: Ewek Gnos on Unsplash

Kiska, Marineland’s last surviving orca, otherwise known as the world’s loneliest orca, died on Friday, March 10. Kiska’s death marks the end of orca captivity in Canada.

Kiska, a 47-year-old orca whale, had been living in solitude in one of Marineland’s tanks for the past 12 years, after being sold off to the aquarium industry in 2011. She was first captured from the North Atlantic Ocean in 1979 at the age of three. After initially being sent to an aquarium in Iceland, she was purchased by Marineland shortly after.

Having outlived each of her children during her confinement, Kiska’s situation has sparked large controversy. In addition to the #FreeKiska movement and protests derived from the orca’s confinement, Kiska’s situation has also been caught in numerous photos and videos which showcase the orca floating lethargically in her tank, as well as even banging her head against her tank’s concrete walls.

Kiska’s death was reportedly caused by a bacterial infection. Her health had been declining in the few weeks leading up to her death.

Following Kiska’s death, the orca whale has reportedly been buried on Marineland’s property, alongside numerous other deceased animals. Both Kiska’s death and burial have resulted in further backlash against the theme park.

“Kiska being buried in a random, unmarked spot on Marineland property amongst the mass graves that hold hundreds upon hundreds of bodies — including those of her calves and tankmates — makes me feel physically ill,” wrote one user on Twitter.

The event has received additional attention due to how quickly Kiska’s burial took place following her death, with some wondering why the park failed to perform a ceremony following the death, as well as some wondering why the body was not donated for research or museum purposes.

However, according to Philip Demers, a former professional marine mammal trainer at Marineland, the park always buries their animals on property. The park has also expressed their sorrow following the death.

“Marineland’s marine mammal care team and experts did everything possible to support Kiska’s comfort and will mourn her loss,” said Marineland in a public statement.

Despite there being many that will mourn the loss of the orca whale, Kiska’s death marks the end of orca captivity in the country due to the passing of Bill-S-203 in 2019.

Bill-S-203, otherwise known as Ending the Captivity of Whales and Dolphins Act, banned the breeding, capturing and confinement of cetaceans in Canada. Despite its passing four years ago, its grandfather clause resulted in Kiska remaining in Marineland’s hands up until her death.

Although Kiska’s death results in the ending of orca captivity in Canada, Marineland continues to maintain 34 belugas and five dolphins.

Kiska’s death follows the park’s previous indication of being on the verge of selling after Marineland’s Jan. 10 application with Ontario’s lobbyist registry.

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