'Mother' of all whales dies at SeaWorld in San Diego

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SeaWorld also has chose to phase out its world-famous killer whale performances by 2019, after public opinion turned against keeping orcas, dolphins and other animals in captivity for entertainment.

"I have spent the past several years with Kasatka and was truly blessed to be part of her life", orca behaviorist Kristi Burtis said.

Kasatka was nearly 42 years old, but she kept struggling with a bacterial infection in her lungs for several years. I adored Kasatka and loved sharing her with millions of people.

PETA, which has been critical of SeaWorld for years and has called for the parks to release their captive orcas to seaside pens, said it will be holding a memorial Wednesday at noon for Kasatka.

Veterinarians made the hard decision to euthanise Kasatka after her health started to decline in recent days despite treatment, which included a custom-built inhaler that allowed the medicine to go directly to her lungs.

In 1978 she was captured off the coast of Iceland and is related to numerous whales now at the park.

SeaWorld announced the end of its breeding program in March 2016, following years of pressure from animal rights protests and shifting public opinion about orcas being held in captivity. SeaWorld said it is the most common cause of death for whales.

Her death comes less than a month after a 3-month-old killer whale, named Kyara, born in captivity under SeaWorld's former orca-breeding program, died at the company's San Antonio park after suffering from pneumonia.

"I tried to get the media to expose it, I tried to have ANYONE force them to take pics of her", he tweeted following the death. She is third whale to die in the theme park this year.

SeaWorld said they now "care for" 21 orcas at their parks in San Diego, Orlando and San Antonio.

Veterinarians at SeaWorld San Diego have euthanized the matriarch of its killer whale clan following a battle with lung disease. He had shared photos of Kasatka with open sores and lesions on her face and skin, which indicated a massive fungal infection.

SeaWorld has announced plans to introduce new "natural orca encounters" in place of theatrical shows. After giving birth, she reportedly became more aggressive, and, in 1999, she attacked her trainer Ken Peters. "A mother of four, grandmother of six and great grandmother of two, she was considered by the most current research as an older killer whale at almost 42 years old." the parks said.

SeaWorld now has 21 orcas at its three marine parks in Orlando, San Antonio and San Diego.

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