Kayla, 30-year-old orca, dies at SeaWorld Orlando

Cause of death unknown

By Brianna Volz - Web producer

ORLANDO, Fla. - An orca whale at SeaWorld Orlando has died, officials with the company announced Monday.

Kayla, the 30-year-old female, died early Monday after she began showing signs of discomfort Saturday afternoon, SeaWorld officials said.

Kayla had been receiving treatment since Saturday after undergoing a physical exam, but her condition worsened Sunday. She died with her animal care specialists by her side, officials said.

"While today is a difficult day for all of us at SeaWorld, Kayla inspired generations of guests and employees to care and learn more about this amazing species," SeaWorld officials said in a statement.

Kayla's cause of death is unknown and will not be determined until a postmortem examination is complete, which is expected to take several weeks.

PETA, or People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, a nonprofit organization that has been outspoken about its disapproval of SeaWorld's treatment of animals, released a statement regarding Kayla's death.

"After being hauled from park to park, performing tricks in chemically treated waters for a reward of dead fish, miscarrying a calf and losing another, and enduring forced artificial insemination, Kayla's suffering has come to an end. She died well shy of her normal life expectancy, stuck in a tiny tank at SeaWorld," PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman said.

Local members of the organization plan to hold two memorials this week in Kayla's honor.

Kayla was among the last orcas at SeaWorld's Orlando park, as well as parks in California and Texas, according to the Associated Press.

The company announced in 2016 that it had stopped its orca breeding program.

SeaWorld has 20 orcas left at its parks. There are five in Orlando, five in San Antonio, and 10 in San Diego.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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