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Kiska death: Marineland orca dies after 40 years at facility

After more than 40 years in captivity and a decade without a tankmate, Kiska, Canada’s last living orca, has died.

The Ministry of the Solicitor General confirmed to CTV News Toronto on Friday that the whale died at Marineland in Niagara Falls, ON on March 9.

Animal Welfare Services was on site both yesterday and today to determine compliance with care standards, including the claim. […] perform a post-mortem,” department spokesman Brent Ross said Friday, adding that “the autopsy was performed by experts retained by MarineLand.”

The ministry declined to provide further information, citing its ongoing inspections at the park. CTV News Toronto reached out to Marineland for comment, but did not hear back.

According to Ross, “MarineLand has been inspected 160 times since January 2020 as part of Animal Welfare Services’ work to ensure standards of care under the PAWS Act are being met.”

On Friday, the rights group Animal Justice issued a statement renewing the calls Kiska will be subject to aquarium treatment charges.

“Kiska, widely known as the ‘world’s loneliest orca,’ has died after more than 40 years in a tank at Marineland, more than a decade in solitary confinement,” the statement said.

“Orcas are incredibly social animals, but Kiska has had no one by her side since 2011 and has been suffering from excruciating loneliness, as well as a lack of space and mental stimulation in her small, barren tank,” it continued.

Animal Welfare Canada also released a statement Friday saying it was “heartbroken” to hear of Kiska’s death.

“Thanks to changes in federal law, Kiska will be the last orca ever held in captivity in Canada,” wildlife campaign manager Michelle Hammers said in a statement.

“The work doesn’t stop here, Marineland, according to our 2022 investigation, appears to be continuing to engage in programming that exploits the animals it continues to own, including dolphins. “Unfortunately, Marineland continues to evade responsibility due to Ontario’s lax enforcement of animal welfare, which has led to a culture of non-compliance with several existing regulations in the province,” it continued.

The organization expressed hope that in the case of Kiska’s death, efforts can be redoubled so that “no more innocent animals die in Canada”, pointing out: work is underway with Canada’s Jane Goodall Act as a prime example.

Kiska is believed to be 47 years old and was captured in Icelandic waters in 1979. He was captured alongside Keiko, who rose to fame in the movie Free Willy, and the pair lived together in Marineland for several years in the 1980s.

She outlived all the calves born at Marineland and has lived without a tank mate since 2011.

Kiska was the last orca to be kept in captivity in Canada following the passage of Bill S-203 in 2019, which made it illegal to breed or import marine mammals into captivity. His death marks the end of legal orca captivity in the country.

With files from The Canadian Press.

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