The orca that once lived with the star of the film Free Willy has died tragically at a popular amusement park.
Kiska, dubbed the world’s loneliest orca, died at the SeaWorld theme park in Niagara Falls, Canada, it was announced today.
Kiska has been completely alone since 2011, which is seen as torture for social animals such as orcas, said Phil Demers, an animal activist who has worked at the park.
Kiska, the last captive orca in Canada and the focus of multiple protests by Marineland animal rights activists, was captured in the North Atlantic in 1979 when she was just three years old.
She was taken to an aquarium in Iceland where she lived with four other orca calves, including Keiko, the future star of the Hollywood film Free Willy.
Kiska was sold to Marineland shortly thereafter, along with Keiko, according to the Whale Sanctuary Project.
Keiko was then sold to an amusement park in Mexico, but was later rescued, rehabilitated, and returned to the waters off Iceland.
In Marineland, Kiska gave birth to five calves—Athena, Hudson, Nova, Kanuck, and a calf that didn’t live long enough to be named—but all died young.
The Whale Sanctuary Project said: “Research has shown that orcas’ ability to experience deep, complex emotions rivals or even exceeds that of humans.
“The bond between mother and calf is so deep that it’s hard to imagine the grief and trauma each time Kiska has been lost over the years.”
Announcing Kiska’s death today, Marineland said, “Marineland’s nursing team and marine mammal specialists have done everything possible to assist in Kiska’s comfort and will mourn her loss.”
Animal Justice, a vegan animal rights group that has campaigned for Kiska for more than a decade, described the orca’s death as “heartbreaking”.
Lawyer Camille Labchuk, chief executive of Animal Justice, said: “It is heartbreaking to learn that Kiska will never have the opportunity to be relocated to a whale sanctuary and experience the freedom she so much deserves.
“While no other orca will have to suffer the brutality of captivity in Canada again, we demand justice for what Kiska suffered in Marineland.
“We urge provincial authorities to release the results of the autopsy and to prosecute Marineland for Kiska’s apparent unlawful suffering in his later years.”
After spending more than a decade alone in Marineland, a video of Kiska headbutting a tank went viral in 2021.
Another video has also surfaced of a dolphin doing a Mambo #5 in “Dolphin Ball” in which the whale “jumps out of the water, spins in the air, and pushes the trainer through the water”.