Kiska, dubbed the loneliest whale in the world, has died at Marineland, a zoo and amusement park in Canada.
Caught in wild Icelandic waters she spent four decades held captive. She was just three years old when she was taken from the ocean, and her family, and condemned to a life in a barren, concrete tank.
The disturbing images recently circulated on social media showed her violently thrashing her head against the side of her tank, an indication of how a life in captivity for over forty years had severely impacted her social and psychological development. Kiska had been without an orca companion since 2011 and was deprived of every aspect of the social culture she would have experienced in the wild.
Orcas, and indeed all whales and dolphins, are extremely poor candidates for life in captivity as no tank environment can ever provide the conditions that these free-ranging, powerful, highly intelligent and socially complex creatures need to thrive.
We held out hope that Kiska might be retired to a coastal, open water sanctuary where she could enjoy the rest of her days in a more natural environment in the company of other ex-captive orcas. Sadly, that will never come to pass.
Like humans, the trauma of incarceration manifests itself in many ways: self-harm, psychosis, depression and aggression. It affects a whale or dolphin’s personality and their behaviour towards other individuals, including their offspring and often the humans training them.
Boredom is the most widespread condition and a serious concern for whales and dolphins held in tank because, as predators, they are denied one of the most important behaviours of their natural repertoire, the ability to hunt and forage.
We're calling on travel operators to stop selling tickets to these shows, and for the captivity industry to commit to our ethical phase-out model. No performances, no breeding, no wild captures, no trade between facilities, enhanced welfare conditions and support for wild sea sanctuaries.
We need make sure that this generation of captive whales and dolphins is the last, create sanctuaries where those currently held can be retired and, in some cases, rehabilitated for a return to the wild.