In December, an 18-year-old orca named Unna died at SeaWorld San Antonio after a months-long battle with candida, a fungus infection that is common in captivity. SeaWorld later said she had died as a result of a "systemic bacterial infection" that she was battling at the same time as the fungal infection, but the full necropsy was not released. Female orcas in the wild live around 50 years on average, and can live to be 100.
In November, a 2-year-old beluga calf named Stella passed away at San Antonio. In July, another unnamed 3-week-old beluga calf died. The cause of death for both of them is still unknown, though when the first calf died Naomi Rose, a marine mammal scientist with the Animal Welfare Institute, told The Dodo that she suspected captivity was partially to blame.
"Given that the facilities have corporate reasons for insisting captivity has nothing to do with these deaths and refuse to conduct the necessary, objective science to truly understand mortality risk for captive-born calves, I am left to speculate that yes, captivity had something to do with this calf's death," she said.
And it's not just San Antonio. A mature Commerson's dolphin named Betsy passed away at SeaWorld Orlando last month after an ill-advised move across the country, the latest in a long string of disasters for SeaWorld's stock of captive Commerson's.
The deaths are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to SeaWorld's animal mistreatment, though that's little consolation for Dart, who spent all of his short life cooped up in a small tank.
In a statement, SeaWorld said Dart was "high-energy, extremely playful, [and] enjoyed participating in shows."