Updated March 11, 2023 3:38 a.m. CET
Published March 10, 2023 11:37 p.m. CET
After more than 40 years at an Ontario theme park and a decade without a tank mate, Kiska, Canada's last living captive orca, has died.
The Ministry of the Solicitor General confirmed to CTV News Toronto on Friday that the whale passed away at Marineland in Niagara Falls, Ont., on March 9.
"Animal Welfare Services was onsite, both yesterday and today, to determine compliance with the Standards of Care, including the requirement [...] to perform a post-mortem," Brent Ross, spokesperson for the ministry said Friday, adding that "a necropsy was conducted by professionals retained by MarineLand."
The ministry declined to provide further information given its ongoing inspections at the park. CTV News Toronto has reached out to Marineland for comment but has not received a response.
According to Ross, “MarineLand has been inspected 160 times since January 2020 as part of Animal Welfare Services’ work to ensure the standards of care under the PAWS Act are being met.”
On Friday, advocacy organization Animal Justice issued a statement, renewing calls for charges to be laid in relation to the aquarium’s treatment of Kiska.
“Kiska, widely known as the “loneliest orca in the world”, has died after living over 40 years in a tank at Marineland, with over a decade in solitary confinement,” the statement read.
“Orcas are incredibly social animals, but Kiska had no one by her side since 2011, and suffered from agonizing loneliness as well as a lack of space and mental stimulation in her small barren tank,” it continued.
BREAKING: #Kiska, the lone orca at Marineland, has died after suffering for over a decade in solitary confinement 💔— Animal Justice (@AnimalJustice) March 10, 2023
Animal Justice is heartbroken over this news, & is renewing calls for charges against Marineland for illegal animal cruelty. Act now! ➡️ https://t.co/cQplD3zsXF pic.twitter.com/kRYfZG6l12
World Animal Protection Canada said Friday it was “heartbroken” to hear of Kiska’s death.
“Thanks to changes to federal legislation, Kiska will be the last Orca to ever be in captivity in Canada,” wildlife campaign manager Michele Hamers said in a statement.
“The work will not stop here, Marineland, as per our 2022 investigations, seemingly continues to engage in a programming that exploits the animals it continues to own, including dolphins. Sadly, Marineland continues to escape accountability because of Ontario’s weak animal welfare enforcement, which has resulted in a culture of non compliance of the few regulations that exist in the province,” it continued.
The organization said it hopes, in the face of Kiska’s death, efforts can be re-doubled to ensure “no more innocent animals die in Canada," pointing to the work 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. She was taken alongside Keiko, who became famous in the movie Free Willy, and the pair lived together for a few years at Marineland in the 1980s.
She outlived all of the calves she birthed at Marineland and has lived without a tank mate since 2011.
Kiska was the last orca kept in captivity in Canada since the passing of Bill S-203 in 2019, which rendered it illegal to breed or import marine mammals into captivity. Her death marks the end of legal orca captivity in the country.