Kiska Died Alone

Kiska swimming in her tank, blue water surrounding her.
Kiska at MarineLand in 2017. Photo by Dennis Jarvis on Flickr, Creative Commons license (CC BY-SA 2.0).

Kiska is dead.

I cried when I saw the announcement from The Whale Sanctuary Project. Though I never met this orca, she was in my heart. I had hoped that she’d be one of the first orcas to be relocated to the sanctuary.

“The news is devastating to all of us who have been working toward the time when she could be retired to sanctuary.” -Lori Marino, President of The Whale Sanctuary Project1

Kiska at Marineland Canada in 2011 in her tank, with silhouetted people looking through the glass.
Kiska, the orca that lived alone at Marineland until her death in 2023. Credit: Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals Media.

Kiska’s Sad Life

MarineLand Canada announced that Kiska, the loneliest orca, died of a bacterial infection on March 9, 2023. She had been there since 1979, captured as a calf near Iceland (along with Keiko, the star of Free Willy) and taken from her family. She suffered the loss of all 5 of her own babies under MarineLand’s care. “One of them didn’t even survive long enough to be named. Orcas feel deep, complex emotions, and the bond between mother and child is so profound that it is hard to imagine the grief and trauma that Kiska would have suffered in each of her bereavements.”2

Worse, Kiska had been living alone in her small tank since 2011. Read this article about her life.

The video below shows how lonely, bored, and unstimulated she was in 2021.

The marine amusement park has been under investigation for animal cruelty for several years. Animal Justice, an animal advocacy and legal group in Canada, worked to help Kiska by filing legal complaints on her behalf, including when “disturbing videos were shared showing the orca floating listlessly and slamming her body against the side of her tank.”3

Animal Justice says they are devastated by her death. They are calling for renewed interest in charges against MarineLand “over the cruel and illegal living conditions that the facility forced Kiska to endure. Orcas are incredibly social animals, but Kiska had no one by her side since 2011, and suffered from agonizing loneliness as well as a lack of space and mental stimulation in her small barren tank. Under federal and provincial laws, it’s illegal to cause animals suffering and distress, which includes psychological distress stemming from boredom and isolation.”4

Kiska, a lone orca swimming in a tank with people watching through a glass window, at Marineland. Canada, 2011
Kiska, a lone orca at MarineLand Canada, 2011. Photo by Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals (https://weanimalsmedia.org/)

We Must Learn and Take Action

We have to keep trying, keep learning, and keep calling for action. We’ve made progress, but we have a long way to go.

Kiska was the last orca living in captivity in Canada since the 2019 passing of Bill S-203. This law made it illegal to breed or import marine mammals into captivity. However, the whales and dolphins currently in captivity at Marineland were exempted from these laws. “Her death marks the end of legal orca captivity in the country.”5

“No other orcas [in Canada] will endure the heartbreaking suffering she faced.” -Camille Labchuk, Animal Justice6

Animal Justice plans to continue investigating MarineLand Canada and urges support for other projects. “It is heartbreaking to know that Kiska will never get to experience freedom, but we hope this tragedy spurs support for the Whale Sanctuary Project, and that other whales at MarineLand will be able to live out of the rest of their lives in a safe environment with hundreds of times more space than the tiny tanks they currently endure.”7

The Whale Sanctuary Project agrees. “The loss of Kiska will only intensify the urgency of our team to help Marineland relocate the approximately 34 belugas and five dolphins who remain there.”8 They ended their statement with this:

“Meanwhile, we can only ask that Marineland be fully transparent about the circumstances surrounding Kiska’s passing. But in the end, we know that no words can explain away a lifetime of pain and misery as experienced by a deeply intelligent, social, family-centered being who had the terrible misfortune to become known as the loneliest whale in the world.”9

Don’t give up. We can save the others.

Thank you for reading, please share and subscribe.

 

Footnotes:

  1. Article, “Kiska the Orca Has Died at Marineland,” by Lori Marino, The Whale Sanctuary Project, March 10, 2023.
  2. Article, “Kiska the Orca Has Died at Marineland,” by Lori Marino, The Whale Sanctuary Project, March 10, 2023.
  3. Article, “Animal Justice Renews Calls for Charges After Orca Kiska Dies at Marineland,” by Camille Labchuk, Animal Justice Canada Legislative Fund, March 10, 2023.
  4. Article, “Animal Justice Renews Calls for Charges After Orca Kiska Dies at Marineland,” by Camille Labchuk, Animal Justice Canada Legislative Fund, March 10, 2023.
  5. Article, “Kiska, Canada’s last living orca, dies after decades of captivity at Marineland,” by Abby O’Brien, CTV News Toronto, March 10, 2023.
  6. Article, “Animal Justice Renews Calls for Charges After Orca Kiska Dies at Marineland,” by Camille Labchuk, Animal Justice Canada Legislative Fund, March 10, 2023.
  7. Article, “Animal Justice Renews Calls for Charges After Orca Kiska Dies at Marineland,” by Camille Labchuk, Animal Justice Canada Legislative Fund, March 10, 2023.
  8. Article, “Kiska the Orca Has Died at Marineland,” by Lori Marino, The Whale Sanctuary Project, March 10, 2023.
  9. Article, “Kiska the Orca Has Died at Marineland,” by Lori Marino, The Whale Sanctuary Project, March 10, 2023.

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