Saturday, July 15, 2017

Kasatka's Impending Death has SeaWorld in Full Scramble Mode

The tragedy of Kasatka... with a tribute to her by VOTO's Samantha Berg

First, some context: 

In the run-up to SeaWorld's (SW) next earnings report at noon Eastern time (USA) on August 8th, the company is in full scramble mode. SEAS stock is currently trading below $15.00 and pressure is mounting on CEO Joel Manby to get the ship turned around, or perhaps more accurately... prevent it from sinking. 

The captivity-corp is under two Federal Investigations & the old SW guard wants leadership change. Former execs are being investigated for misleading statements which downplayed Blackfish movie's actual impact on earnings & attendance, and also for possible insider trading. Our prediction is that the Justice Department & the SEC will find a bounty of Blackfish related emails on company servers. 

Duped investors are angry, having potentially lost millions. Insiders have paid themselves handsomely through rough times, publicly blaming things like "Easter," and in spite of missing financial targets. The natives are restless. 

Meanwhile the obvious solution to SW's woes, sea sanctuaries, alternately referred to as #EmptyTheTanks, are being ignored and mocked by the captivity giant, which is now primarily controlled by China’s the Zhonghong Zhuoye Group. Instead of changing its ways, SeaWorld is working with the Chinese & United Arab Emirates to exploit whales and dolphins in places with fewer animal protections. So much for conservation. But then again, it was never really about that.

There are multiple law firms working on class action suits, with at least one going to trial, at this point. See article here: 

Class Action Lawsuit vs SeaWorld Promises Drama & Discovery

And then there's Kasatka...

Immunocompromised Kasatka succumbing to opportunistic pathogens
A wild born female North Atlantic orca captured by the theme park in 1978, the mother of multiple "assets," as SW refers to "their" whales in financial documents, & the former matriarch at the California park for the last several decades. Kasatka will forever be immortalized by her thrashing of Trainer Ken Peters as seen in this video below from CNN: 

See CNN video below with comments from VOTO's Carol Ray. 

Estimated to be about 40 years of age, she won't experience that long post-menopausal life enjoyed by her wild cousins. Wild females experience reproductive senescence (the equivalent of menopause) at 40-48 years of age. Killer whales, humans, and short-finned pilot whales are the only 3 mammals on the planet known to go through menopause. Dr Darren Croft discusses the evolution of killer whale "menopause" here at #Superpod5: 


Learn more about killer whale matriarchs from Dr Astrid van Ginneken MD, PhD, in the video below: 

A Tribute to Kasatka by Samantha Berg 

I just saw photos of Kasatka’s disease ravaged body. 

Tom Hall, Gabriela Cowperthwaite, Manny Oteyza, Jeffrey Ventre, Samantha Berg (speaking), John Jett, John Hargrove 

Inevitably Kasatka’s death will be portrayed by the SeaWorld corporation as a tragedy. SeaWorld will say they are saddened to lose (yet another!) family member. They will tell the public and the media that they did everything they could to give her a loving home, restaurant quality fish, superior dental care and a whole host of other lies that should be familiar to anyone who is dialed in to the anti-captivity movement.

Kasatka’s trainers will be sad, the public will mourn, and the news cycle will move on to the next story and Kasatka will be forgotten. 

NOTE: This PR video doesn't show Kasatka very well. They strategically keep her hidden or turned away from the camera. Note the language. This video is preparing the public and media for death by pneumonia even though she is being eaten alive by disease.  SW will emphasize that pneumonia is the leading cause of death in killer whales, although not true for wild orca, as far as we can tell.  We have not been able to find evidence that pneumonia is the leading cause of mortality for wild orca. The reality is that Kasatka is being eaten away, possibly by a bacteria, fungus or photo-toxicity due to antibiotic overuse. Generally speaking the pathogen-type is not relevant to her impending death & current suffering. Of course SeaWorld doesn't tell us what is eating her flesh, just that it is not fungal. 

So, before she goes I want people to at least know this:

It is Kasatka’s LIFE – not her death- that is the real tragedy

Kasatka was stolen from her true family in Iceland in 1978. She has spent the last 39 years in prison. Her crime? She was born a killer whale – a species so intelligent, beautiful and intriguing to humans that the owners of Seaworld knew they could put her on display and charge other humans just to watch her swim in a tank.

Kasatka’ body has not been ravaged by illness alone – she has been forced to perform via food deprivation for every day of her life for the last 39 years. She has also been forced to bear children that were then removed from her side and relocated to other corporate-owned prisons. Given what we know about the bonds between mother and calves – this is an even greater violation than food deprivation and amounts to extreme emotional abuse.

Captivity: A bad idea from the beginning. The original Shamu seen here thrashing the company secretary for a promo video

Kasatka is not an individual – she is a corporate asset worth millions of dollars to a corporation that cares about her only to the extent that she can continue to perform and generate revenue. Her owners don’t care how she feels or that she just might have memories of another happier life in the ocean.

Kasatka is one of only 4 remaining wild-captured killer whales still living in US Seaworld parks. With her passing there will only be 3 – Ulysses and Corky in San Diego and Katina in Orlando.

Sadly, the practice of capturing wild killer whales has not ended – the Russians continue to capture whales and the Chinese are building new facilities for whales to perform, breed and be on display.

Morgan, a killer whale who was “rescued” in the Netherlands remains in prison at Loro Parque in the Canary Islands even though she could have been a candidate for release.

Tilikum, also captured near Iceland, lived a miserable life at SeaWorld from 1992 until his death in 2017

While SeaWorld will say that Kasatka’s life performing circus tricks for food helped them to provide an educational experience for countless numbers of school children who stream through their turnstiles every year – this is also a lie.

Watching whales perform tricks in captivity is a distraction from the very real dangers facing our planet and our oceans right now.

Did Kasatka’s prison term help to educate park goers about ocean acidification, plastic pollution, fish farm effluent or dams that are right now causing salmon populations to crash and thus leading to the death and starvation of a wild pod of killer whales in the Pacific Northwest?

Will her death wake people up enough to address these issues? Likely not.

At least in death, Kasatka’s decades of suffering will finally come to an end. My heart breaks for her, not because she is dying but because she deserved better.

RIP Kasatka

Note: Samantha's comments used with permission and also appear in this article at The Dolphin Project v Elizabeth Batt


  1. This is a great article thank you... I myself am deeply saddened by the sheer disrespect for the lifes of these animals...what a cruel and barbaric time we live in. Wish more people would stand up, care and maybe if enough of us demanded it we could end this abuse of animals in all forms zoos,aquariums move past it learn from it and make sure it never happeneds again.


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  2. Anyone who has not seen the blackfish documentary yet needs to watch it,it opened my eyes to the real horrors these beautiful animals go through so you can have fun at an aquatic park,shame on all of us

  3. Thank you for spreading awareness. My heart breaks for this wonderful creature too. She should have had her life in the wild with her family. That anyone made a buck off her suffering makes me physically ill.

  4. There's one more wild caught US captive, Lolita (Tokitae) in Miami.

    1. True. Thank you. We never forget Toki. Samantha refers specifically to SW-owned wild caught orcas in our blog

  5. Beat me to it Traci let us not forget Lolita the loneliest Orca in the world

  6. I think those of us that hate SW are the "others" she referenced at the end. Jerks

  7. Replies
    1. Are you the same Kristi that works as a behaviorist at Sea World?

  8. Sam, this is a great article but it provokes such a deep sadness in me. I've seen Blackfish several times but can no longer bear to watch it because of the pain and extreme frustration I feel. Sometimes I find myself watching the same docs showing free orcas just to feel better for a bit. A couple years ago I wrote comments to USFW every day for weeks re: Morgan and still that poor animal is in that horrible place. I know there is nothing else to be done but to keep trying. That was the truly inspiring thing to me about Blackfish-look at how much public opinion in this country has changed because of it! I don't suppose you could put a link to this article on SWs FB page? No, I suppose it wouldn't last more than a minute. All of you guys who speak against captivity and keep going at it are my inspiration to doing what I can too.

  9. Correction to previous comment: I was referring to Lolita at Miami Sequarium. Sorry. Though I wrote a few times to LoroParque also. ok

  10. John HargroveFriday, July 21, 2017 at 8:51:00 PM PDT
    Although I wish I had not contributed to this industry by being an orca trainer for SeaWorld for so many years but because of my career I am able to expose SeaWorld to all the lies they tell the public and investors and I'm able to tell the public the truth about what really happens to these whales in captivity. I worked and swam with Kasatka for years when she was healthy and before she had her daughter and granddaughter taken from her changing her forever due to the trauma. I loved her and was extremely close as one of only a few to be able to swim with her because of her risk factor. I have pricelesss memories that will stay with me forever. I am so angry this is what they have done to her. Captivity caused this and then to lie to all of us in attempt to conceal her true health. I was so young and believed what SeaWorld preached- that nobody could take better care of them than us and everyone who wanted them free were crazy radical animal extremists which is now what their spokesperson calls me when I do TV interviews exposing the truth. They got me to drink the kool-aid as a young kid but their days are almost up- just ask Jim Jones

  11. This is for Kyara, Kasatka's granddaughter. When a calf contracts pneumonia in the wild, exactly what husbandry pool does their mother take them to? I'm certain that a mothers milk contains all of the necessary anti-bodies that the calf needs to prevent such illness, which is why breastfeeding is encouraged for humans. Shame on those who profess to be saving this animals life! What you are actually doing is killing her slowly. You are preparing her to live without her mother to line your own pockets. It's murder, maybe if someone snatched your child and caged it and made it do tricks for money or pay the consequences you'd think twice before you did it to another living being. These animals have close knit family units, they are highly intelligent beings with feelings and souls, much like yourselves. Just let that sink in...��

  12. If she's had "pneumonia" since 2008 you're not "managing it".
    Basically, you have no idea what to do about her conditions.


  14. Everyone continue to write to the CEO of SeaWorld and urge them to transition their Parks to water parks for humans only. Retire all marine mammals to sea pens or back to the open ocean!

  15. Well, maybe instead of simply crying about her demise, we should be doing measures so that other whales don't have to face the same reality. As both the ocean and sea pens would both expose the whales to forces that they have never experienced before (I doubt that even the three whales that were captured remember how it is to be wild, as it's been decades since they went into those tanks), a good idea would be to make a pen at seaworld. This pen would be more like the wild, and even though it would be managed by seaworld, PETA (most significant group that fought seaworld) and CNN (the distributor of blackfish) would both have a say in how it would be built and run, I think that it would work. If you want more details, or if you want this to happen, here is a link to a petition that might allow this to happen:

    1. I am sorry that I barged in with this, and that I might have different views on what "good for orcas" means but if we don't work together on this issue, this project will certainly fail. I know that you probably want them to be released into sea pens, but based on the fact that humanity is spoiling the ocean, they would succumb to microplastics and other pollution threats within a matter of months or a couple years. With this project we can give them just as much happiness, for a longer period of time for them and their descendants. Both of us, could claim victory for our causes about seaworld when this is done, and your goals will be met. Just saying, I accept constructive criticism and I change this petition from time to time.

    2. Also, I did write the first and second comments on this thread (sorry, I only was identified as "vlad" by this blog site after the first comment).

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