55ºF

Photos: Orca whale at SeaWorld Orlando suffers split to her dorsal fin

Officials: Katina, matriarch of orca pod, hurt interacting with other whales

ORLANDO, Fla. – SeaWorld officials are speaking Sunday, two weeks after an orca whale at the Orlando attraction suffered an injury to its dorsal fin.

Pictures posted Saturday on Ocean Advocate News show Katina, the matriarch of the orca pod, suffering from a split fin.

SeaWorld officials said Saturday in a blog post that Katina suffered the injury March 17 while interacting with other whales.

"On Saturday, March 17, the matriarch of the SeaWorld Orlando orca pod, Katina, sustained an injury at the base of her dorsal fin as the result of interactions with other members of the orca pod," the post read.

Photos by Heather Murphy, of Ocean Advocate News, show Katina, the matriarch of the orca whale pod at SeaWorld Orlando, suffering a split to her dorsal fin.

Officials with the theme park said that veterinary teams responded to Katina's injury immediately and determined that it was isolated to just the base of her dorsal fin.

The whale is reportedly being kept in a separate pool with her daughter and son as she undergoes treatment and continues to be monitored, according to the blog post.

"Our veterinary and animal care teams are monitoring and treating Katina’s wound, including utilizing cold-laser therapy and medical honey treatments to promote healing and help prevent infection," SeaWorld officials wrote.

Officials said they don't find it necessary to keep Katina completely isolated from the other whales since her behavior has already returned to normal.

The injured orca was near a 12-year-old male named Trua when she was hurt, but since she was also interacting with several other members of the orca pod, veterinarians are not sure exactly how she was injured, SeaWorld said.

SeaWorld officials said aggressive behavior is natural for their species of whale, so they would not be surprised if the whales had been interacting in that manner, but that it is not clear if they were at the time of Katina's injury.

"Killer whales are a social and hierarchal species, so interacting with other members of the pod, even in an aggressive or antagonistic manner, is a natural behavior we’d expect to see," the post read. "However, it’s not clear if this was the result of an aggressive behavior or other interactions within the orca pod."

The post also emphasized that the aggressive behavior is not a result of the whales living in captivity and that it is not uncommon among wild killer whale orca pods.

Photos by Heather Murphy, of Ocean Advocate News, show Katina, the matriarch of the orca whale pod at SeaWorld Orlando, suffering a split to her dorsal fin.

SeaWorld has been under fire and has suffered financially since the release of the 2013 documentary "Blackfish," which criticizes the practice of keeping killer whales in captivity.

[MORE: SeaWorld reports revenue down, major drop in attendance | SeaWorld CEO Joel Manby steps down]

SeaWorld officials first acknowledged "Blackfish" was having a negative impact on park attendance in August 2014, according to a lawsuit filed against SeaWorld by a group of shareholders who claim company executives misled them about the effect the film was having on their investments.

Following the announcement, SeaWorld's stock price plunged more than 33 percent.

Internal SeaWorld emails made public last year as part of the shareholder lawsuit indicated company officials had concerns about “Blackfish” as early as December 2013, with one executive writing, “we look like idiots” after musician Willie Nelson canceled a concert at the theme park over concerns about its treatment of killer whales.

[MORE: Former SeaWorld CEO refuses to answer questions in shareholder lawsuit'We look like idiots': SeaWorld execs knew 'Blackfish' was bad for business]

Former SeaWorld CEO Joel Manby stepped down in February after the company posted a fourth-quarter net loss of $20.4 million. Attendance had also dropped nearly 3 percent in the fourth quarter compared to 2016, according to the earnings report.

Dr. Heather Rally, the supervising veterinarian of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) released the following statement Monday in response to reports of Katina's injury.

"SeaWorld conveniently claims to keep orcas in cohesive family pods, but in reality, this matriarch orca is held in a tiny concrete tank with five other orcas—only three of whom are related to her—and suffered immensely when a large chunk of her dorsal fin was ripped out. While aggression is rarely seen among family units in the wild, traumatic wounds such as Katina's are an all-too-common consequence when complex wild animals are forced to live in unnatural, incompatible groups inside small tanks. As her life depends on whether or not this serious wound heals, PETA is once again calling on SeaWorld to send the orcas to seaside sanctuaries, where they may live safer, more natural lives."

PETA officials said they planned to file a complaint Monday with the U.S. Department of Agriculture calling for it to investigate the incident for potential violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act.

The organizations motto reads, in part, that "animals are not ours to use for entertainment," officials said in the statement.

SeaWorld Orlando officials said Sunday that they were continuing treatment on Katina, but they do expect the dorsal fin to have permanent damage as a result of the injury.


About the Author: