Sea World mourns the death of a 20-year-old orca who passed away light night due to an infection, marine park officials announced Friday night.
Nakai was born in SeaWorld in 2001 and lived his entire life in the marine park. According to a park statement, animal care and medical teams that had worked closely with Nakai since birth surrounded him at the time of his passing.
“Every attempt was made to save his life. Veterinarians and health specialists had been actively treating an infection, but aggressive therapeutic and diagnostic efforts were unsuccessful,” the marine park wrote in a statement.
Park officials said he will be “remembered as a curious and quick learner, often picking up behaviors just by observing the other wales in his pod”.
“Because of these natural abilities, Nakai participated in hearing studies to help scientists better understand the impact on orcas of noise from ships and other human activity. His contributions to helping improve the health and survival of whales in the wild cannot be underestimated and will never be forgotten,” the marine park wrote in a statement.
One member of Nakai’s team who cared for him for 20 years said, “I have been professionally and personally invested in the welfare of Nakai since he was born in our park, and the bond we shared was very strong. He was very friendly and an overall playful guy who loved to interact with people. It was a joy to care for and learn from him, and I will miss him greatly. He was a huge part of my life and our family here at SeaWorld San Diego. We appreciate the support of the community as we grieve his loss together with his loyal fans everywhere.”
Nakai’s death leaves eight killer whales ranging from ages 9 to 57 years old, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported. In March 2016, the marine park announced orcas would no longer be bred at its parks following an order by the California Coastal Commission.
Sea World San Diego became the first location in 2017 to replace its Shamu performances with an educational program that highlights the orcas’ natural behaviors in the wild.