It's not evident how Freya died, but what is clear is that Valentin - like many orcas in captivity - died prematurely: "Valentin was a 19-year-old male who would have been in his prime in the wild, where male orcas typically live until 30 years old but can exceed 50 years," Rob Lott, policy manager at WDC, tells the Dodo.
Lott says Valentin exhibited what welfare advocates believe are the detrimental physical and mental effects of living an unnatural life in captivity, including that "his dorsal fin was starting to collapse and he displayed stereotypical, stress-related behavior of chewing on bars and banging against the sides of the tank." (To watch a video on fin collapse and what this means in terms of captivity, please go here; for more on the negative effects of captivity on orcas, you can go here.)
Valentin was sometimes medicated to curb aggressive tendencies toward trainers and other orcas, claims Lott. In fact, Hargrove says he gave drugs to Val "to suppress his testosterone levels when we swam with him because management was so fearful of an aggression by a sexually mature male, despite my protests against it."
Eventually, Hargrove claims, "we stopped, because the medication affected his mental state so greatly." Although the claims of drug administration can't be independently verified by The Dodo, this isn't entirely uncommon: Trainers at SeaWorld, for example, have admitted in court documents to administering drugs such as benzodiazepines to orcas in captivity.
Meanwhile, concern grows for the remaining orcas at Marineland. "[There is] speculation that a 2-year-old male, Keijo, was spending a lot of time at the bottom of the tank in the aftermath of the flood," Lott says.
Another orca, named Wikie, is also living in compromised conditions at the park, according to a Facebook post by Sea Shepherd France. According to a Facebook translation of Dauphins libres and dauphins captifs, the 14-year-old orca has stopped eating and her condition "is deteriorating by the hour." (This information could not be independently verified by The Dodo.)
"We are incredibly concerned for the four remaining orcas at Marineland Antibes, now more than ever. Over a week has gone by and the orcas are still languishing in dirty tank water," says Sam Lipman, chair of Dolphinaria-Free Europe. "The facility still hasn't released any information about how it is planning to resolve this horrific situation, which has caused the deaths of many animals that it is responsible for."
What should Marineland have done to protect the orcas during the floods? Lott says the park presumably had a contingency plan "where the whales should have been immediately evacuated to a clean, safe environment where their health could be better monitored."
However, he adds, "Even though reports suggest that the water is now much cleaner, the fact that the orcas are still there 10 days after the flooding would suggest the scale of the event made it difficult or impossible to put such a plan (if it ever existed) in place."