A former employee of the theme park and aquarium Marineland in Ontario in Canada, Philip Demers, shared drone footage of the lonely female orca Kiska on Friday.
Kiska was captured in the wild in 1979 and has been held captive at the park ever since. For the last 11 years, she has been living by herself in a tank. “Her conditions continue to deteriorate while she floats in solitude,” Demers said.
Canadian animal welfare group Animal Justice called Kiska the “loneliest orca in the world” as she is seen swimming in isolation in an empty tank at Marineland. The group submitted multiple legal complaints about Kiska’s welfare.
According to Animal Justice, the Canadian authorities are investigating the case, as Ontario’s laws recognize psychological distress as a form of animal abuse. “In Ontario, it’s not only illegal to cause physical distress or suffering to an animal. It’s illegal to cause psychological distress, too,” Animal Justice said in a social media post.
New video taken Jan 14, 2023 above MarineLand and their last surviving orca Kiska. Her conditions continue to deteriorate while she floats in solitude. pic.twitter.com/9LCFl4sJDI— Phil Demers (@walruswhisperer) January 14, 2023
Animal rights activists have long criticized the conditions in which the orca is kept, noting that her tank is too small and that the water in which she swims is not maintained correctly.
Orca Kiska is approximately 45 years old and has outlived all other orcas in her tank, including her five babies, animal rights activists said. When footage of her circling her tank and splashing water over the walls of her isolated tank was shared in June 2022, researchers said her behaviour resulted from her damaged mental and physical health and well-being from prolonged captivity.
Since MarineLand opened in 1961, 26 orcas have lived in its tanks. Twenty died in the tanks, some were given to other parks, and Kiska is the last surviving orca the park.
Orcas, also known as killer whales, are highly social animals who live in social groups called pods. They have complex social relationships and communication systems using a variety of vocalizations, including clicks, whistles, and calls, to communicate with each other. These vocalizations are unique to each pod, and orcas can even recognize the calls of individual pod members.
However, orcas in captivity have been observed to have different behaviours and social structures than wild ones. They usually exhibit abnormal behaviours, such as aggression towards other individuals and self-harm, due to the limited space and lack of social interaction with other orcas.