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SeaWorld orca Kayla dies at age 30, and no one knows why. How long do orcas normally live in the wild?

SALT LAKE CITY — One of SeaWorld’s oldest remaining orcas passed away this week from unknown causes at the age of 30.

What happened: SeaWorld Orlando reported in a statement Monday that Kayla had begun showing signs of discomfort Saturday afternoon and was immediately treated by veterinarians.

  • Kayla passed away from unknown causes Monday morning with animal care specialists by her side.
  • SeaWorld said the exact cause of death will not be known until a post-mortem examination is complete, which may take several weeks.

According to SeaWorld, Kayla was “a healthy orca and had no major health concerns” prior to Saturday. She was described on SeaWorld’s website as “graceful, intelligent, and athletic.”

  • "The entire SeaWorld family is deeply saddened by the loss,” SeaWorld representatives said in a statement.
  • "While this is very difficult for all of us at SeaWorld, Kayla inspired generations of guests and employees to care and learn more about this amazing species.”
  • SeaWorld is monitoring the remaining three female and two male orcas in Orlando for signs of behavioral and social issues felt from Kayla’s passing, according to the organization.

Female orcas typically live to an average of 46 years in the wild, according to Whale and Dolphin Conservation.

  • The maximum lifespan for female orcas is 80 to 90 years.
  • Male orcas live to an average of 30 years in the wild and up to 50-60 years maximum.

Dr. Naomi Rose, a marine-mammal scientist at the Animal Welfare Institute, told the Orlando Sentinelthat Kayla was the second oldest captive-born orca in history and was in what should be an orca’s “prime of life.”

  • “That’s like literally being a 30-year-old woman. Dying at 30 is not normal,” Rose told the Sentinel.

Kayla was born at SeaWorld Antonio, was moved to the now-closed SeaWorld Ohio, and ended up in Orlando in 2006, according to the Miami Herald.

  • In September, she was part of SeaWorld’s Killer Whale Up-Close Tour to teach visitors about the animals, the Orlando Sentinel reported.
  • Her death follows the deaths of Tilikum, 33, who was the oldest orca whale to die in captivity and Kayara, a 3-month-old orca calf who was the last to be born into captivity in 2017.

SeaWorld has been under repeated fire and criticism for the past several years about the treatment and captivity of their orca whales.

  • Six years ago, the documentary “Blackfish” premiered at Sundance and featured the history of orca whale captivity and the park’s alleged safety violations and abuses. Tilikum, who was responsible for three deaths at the park, was the central focus of the documentary.
  • In 2016, after facing increasing pressure from the public and animal rights groups, SeaWorld announced that it would be ending its orca breeding program and phasing out orca shows in favor of a more educational presentation.

There are currently 20 orcas in total left at SeaWorld’s three water parks, according to the organization.