Kiska, the last captive killer whale in Canada, died Thursday at MarineLand, a theme park in Ontario, according to CBC. She was believed to be about 47 years old.
Kiska was captured in Icelandic waters in 1979 alongside Keiko, the orca seen in the 1993 movie “Free Willy.” The group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals described Kiska as “the world’s loneliest orca,” per Reuters. The organization said her life was characterized by “tragedy after tragedy,” as all five of her calves died before the age of 7.
“It is heartbreaking to know that Kiska will never have the chance to be relocated to a whale sanctuary, and experience the freedom that she so deeply deserved,” Camille Labchuk, executive director of the Canadian nonprofit group Animal Justice, told CBC.
Brent Ross, a spokesperson for Ontario’s Ministry of the Solicitor General, told Reuters the administration was informed of Kiska’s death on Thursday and has already overseen a necropsy. Groups like Animal Justice, however, say more transparency is needed.
“We are demanding justice for what Kiska endured at the hands of MarineLand,” Labchuk told CBC. “We are calling on provincial authorities to make public the results of a post-mortem, and prosecute MarineLand for the unlawful distress Kiska experienced.”
MarineLand did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.
While Kiska’s cause of death has yet to be determined, Animal Justice filed a complaint against MarineLand in 2021 regarding her physical and mental well-being after former trainer Phil Demers shared footage of the orca floating listlessly in her tank.
Kiska lived with Keiko for only a few years before they were separated in the 1980s, and she spent the last 12 years in solitary confinement, according to the New York Post. In the wild, orcas are highly social animals and develop complex hierarchies within their pods, according to the National Wildlife Federation. In certain types of pods, offspring remain with their mothers for the rest of their lives.
While MarineLand denies any negligence in the matter, videos of Kiska ramming her head against her tank walls went viral in December 2021, garnering millions of views online. The theme park was charged with unauthorized use of animals as a result.
Niagara police found MarineLand to be in violation of Canada’s Ending the Captivity of Whales and Dolphins Act, saying at the time that its “dolphins and whales were utilized for entertainment purposes ... without being authorized to do so,” per the Post.
“Marine mammal care team and experts did everything possible to support Kiska’s comfort and will mourn her loss,” local media quoted the theme park as saying this week, per Reuters.
Kiska was initially captured when she was just 3. While legislation in 2019 banned the captivity of whales and dolphins in Canada, Kiska was exempt, as animals that were already captive were not required to be released, per Yahoo.
“Rest in peace, Kiska,” PETA tweeted on Friday. “You’re free now.”