SeaWorld officials revealed this week that one of the orcas at its San Antonio park has died following a months-long battle with an infection.
Unna, an 18-year-old killer whale, suffered from a resistant fungal infection and had been under constant care at the time of her death, SeaWorld said in a release Monday.
According to the release, orcas and cetaceans in general suffer fungal infections in the wild. However, wild killer whales can live three times as long as Unna did, or even longer.
Unna was the third whale to die at SeaWorld San Antonio in the last six months. A two-year-old beluga named Stella died there in November from gastrointestinal issues. The other was a newborn beluga that died in July after being born prematurely, My San Antonio reports.
“This is an extremely difficult day for the SeaWorld family and all of Unna’s many fans,” said Chris Bellows, Vice President of Zoological Operations. “Our team formed a strong bond with Unna, which we enjoyed sharing with our guests over these past 19 years. We appreciate the support and well wishes we’ve received over the past several months. She will be missed.”
SeaWorld San Antonio announced it would suspend orca shows at the Texas park for the day "in honor of Unna."
SeaWorld has suffered from a serious public relations problem in recent years since the release of the documentary "Blackfish."
The 2013 film resonated with the public, especially the part about a trainer who drowned when a killer whale dragged her under water.
The film, which was produced in part by CNN, shows the practice of capturing baby orcas in the 1970s and follows a whale named Tillikum who has killed three people but remains a major draw for SeaWorld.
Following the release of Blackfish, SeaWorld called the film "inaccurate and misleading" in a statement that emphasized the company's dedication to the safety of their animals, staff and guests.
SeaWorld said the film withholds key facts about the company "to promote its bias that killer whales should not be maintained in a zoological setting."
SeaWorld said it has "demonstrated...continual refinement and improvement to its killer whale facilities, equipment and procedures both before and after the death of Dawn Brancheau."
Meanwhile, SeaWorld has responded to a reported attendance slump with plans to emphasize rollercoaster-style attractions.
The company announced this year that it would end whale shows at its San Diego park but that they will continue at other SeaWorld locations, including San Antonio.
Ironically, a mechanical snafu on a ride at SeaWorld left around 50 people suspended 200 feet in the air for hours at SeaWorld Orlando on Monday, the same day Unna died.