The last killer whale born in captivity under SeaWorld's former orca-breeding program died Monday at the company's San Antonio park, SeaWorld said. Veterinarians were treating 3-month-old Kyara for an infection last weekend, but her health continued to decline, the Orlando-based company said in a news release. "Kyara had a tremendous impact on the entire zoological team, not to mention all of the guests that had the chance to see her," San Antonio trainer Julie Sigman said in a statement. "The heart and support that has gone into caring for her throughout Takara's pregnancy until today has been amazing." A veterinary team will conduct a post-mortem examination to determine the cause of death, the AP reports. The release said that could take several weeks.
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 has not collected a wild orca in nearly 40 years, and most of its orcas were born in captivity. Kyara was born to 26-year-old Takara last April but was conceived before the program's end was announced. SeaWorld also has decided 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. SeaWorld has 22 orcas left in the US. All the orcas are expected to remain on display and available for researchers for years to come in Orlando, San Diego, and San Antonio.