For the last 37 years, an orca named Kiska has been living in a narrow concrete pool at Marineland in Ontario, Canada, far from the open waters of the Northern Atlantic where she was captured as a calf.
Throughout most of her life in captivity, she was made to perform in front of crowds and to produce offspring, five in all, but each of whom failed to survive long into maturity. She's had numerous companions with which to share her existence, though over decades they have all departed, either through transfers to other marine parks, like Seaworld, or in death.
Today, Kiska is alone, prompting some to call her the "world's loneliest orca". She no longer performs, but is still one of the park's headline attractions.
At around age 40, Kiska is by no means a young killer whale, but she's far from exceeding the lifespan seen in her counterparts in the wild -- though one might not guess that from looking at her. Killer whale advocacy groups, like Orca United and Ontario Captivity Animal Watch (OCAW) have raised the alarm that Kiska's body is showing serious signs of failing health.
Last May, Mini Krishnan of Orca United visited Marineland and reported a troubling scene:
She was alone in a small tank and swam in endless circles for the entire hour I was talking to her trainer. Occasionally, she is let out into another adjacent tank where she is fed and can be viewed underwater. After 20 minutes she is called back to her original tank which has no shade or overhang. I watched her eat dead fish and gelatin, and she had no teeth.
Kiska's caregivers say that the whale is "quite elderly," but assured that vets work round the clock to make sure she was "comfortable, calm and carefree."
While there's no doubt that Marineland staff would prefer to keep Kiska in good health, her condition in captivity appears to be rapidly deteriorating regardless. Last weekend, OCAW visited the park and took photographs showing that Kiska may be ailing.
In addition to having severely worn teeth, her dorsal fin appears to be deteriorating and an indentation near her blowhole suggests that she may not be eating properly.