Kiska, known as the ‘world’s loneliest’ killer whale, has died after being kept in captivity in Canada since 2011.
The MarineLand theme park in Niagara Falls, Ontario, on Friday confirmed the death.
The cause of death for the 47-year-old whale was not released, but MarineLand said in a statement that her health had been declining for weeks.
The theme park said: ‘MarineLand’s marine mammal care team and experts did everything possible to support Kiska’s comfort and will mourn her loss.’
After spending a decade in isolation at the theme park, footage of Kiska hitting her head against her tank went viral in 2021.
At three years of age, Kiska was taken from her family near Iceland, along with an orca named Keiko, who later starred in the 1993 film Free Willy.
She was taken to an aquarium in Iceland, where she stayed with four other young orcas, including Keiko.
Shortly afterwards, Kiska was sold, along with Keiko, to MarineLand, according to animal activist Phil Demers, who previously worked at the park.
Keiko was then sold on to an entertainment park in Mexico but would later be rescued, rehabilitated and returned to the sea near Iceland.
Keiko died of pneumonia in 2003 in a bay in Norway at the age of 27.
At MarineLand, Kiska gave birth to five calves – Athena, Hudson, Nova, Kanuck, and one who did not live long enough to be named. All of the calves died at a young age.
Kiska was the last captive orca in Canada and the focus of several animal activist protests at MarineLand.
Animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) described Kiska as the ‘world’s loneliest orca’ whose life was affected by ‘tragedy after tragedy’ after the death of her calves.
The Whale Sanctuary Project said: ‘Studies suggest that orcas’ capacity to feel deep, complex emotions rivals or even exceeds the emotional capacity possessed by humans.
‘The bond between mother and calf is so deep that it is hard to imagine the grief and trauma of each of Kiska’s losses over the years.’
MarineLand has been inspected 160 times since January 2020 as part of Animal Welfare Services’ work to ensure the standards of care are being met under the law, said Brent Ross, a spokesperson of the Canadian province’s solicitor general ministry.
The theme park was charged with unauthorised use of animals in December 2021 after the footage emerged of Kiska striking her head and body against her tank’s walls, which gathered millions of views on social media.
Another clip showed her floating listlessly at the top of the concrete pool.
Investigators for the Niagara Regional Police believed that the park violated the Ending the Captivity of Whales and Dolphins Act.
MarineLand was allowed to continue holding Kiska in captivity on a grandfather clause that gave the park an exemption, as keeping dolphins and whales in captivity is now banned.
Lawyer Camille Labchuk, executive director of Animal Justice, said: ‘It is heartbreaking to know that Kiska will never have the chance to be relocated to a whale sanctuary, and experience the freedom that she so deeply deserved.
‘While no other orca will have to suffer the cruelty of captivity in Canada again, we are demanding justice for what Kiska endured at the hands of MarineLand.
‘We are calling on provincial authorities to make public the results of a post-mortem, and prosecute MarineLand for the unlawful distress Kiska clearly experienced throughout her final years.’