The 3-month-old whale contracted a disease, which officials say is likely pneumonia, over the weekend. SeaWorld said pneumonia is common in whales both in captivity and in the wild saying it was "one of the most common causes of illness or morbidity in whales and dolphins." SeaWorld provided 24-hour care for the whale, named Kyara, at its animal hospital.
"Despite best efforts, her health continued to decline and passed away earlier today," SeaWorld posted on its blog on Monday.
But animal advocacy organization PETA said that the death of the whale is part of a pattern of animal deaths in captivity. According to an Express–News report, 150 sea lions, beluga whales, orcas and other dolphins have died due to infections at SeaWorld parks over the past 30 years. Kyara was the 40th whale to die at the facilities.
"SeaWorld executives have dollar signs where their eyes should be," PETA Vice President Colleen O'Brien said.
PETA has called for the remaining whales at SeaWorld to be moved to seaside sanctuaries, or giant sea pens that allow whales to have more room to move and interact with other ocean organisms.
Kyara was the last whale born in captivity at SeaWorld parks. During her mother's pregnancy, SeaWorld officials announced they would no longer breed killer whales in captivity. The announcement came after the 2013 release of "Blackfish," a CNN documentary that prompted increased scrutiny of SeaWorld's treatment of killer whales.
SeaWorld says the park will now focus on the health of the rest of the orca pod, especially Kyara's mother. PETA held a funeral for Kyara Tuesday afternoon.