SAN DIEGO - A 20-year-old orca that was born and lived at SeaWorld has died of an infection, the marine park announced today.
Nakai died Thursday night despite ``aggressive therapeutic and diagnostic efforts'' to treat the whale's infection, a statement said.
Nakai was born at SeaWorld San Diego in 2001, and participated in hearing studies to help scientists better understand the impact on orcas of noise from ships and other human activity.
"He'll be remembered as a curious and quick learner, often picking up behaviors just by observing the other whales in his pod,'' the statement said. "His contributions to helping improve the health and survival of whales in the wild cannot be underestimated and will never be forgotten.''
A member of Nakai's team who cared for him for 20 years was quoted in the statement as saying, "I have been professionally and personally invested
in the welfare of Nakai since he was born in our park, and the bond we shared
was very strong. He was very friendly and an overall playful guy who loved to interact with people. It was a joy to care for and learn from him and I will miss him greatly.''
Nakai's death leaves the marine park with eight killer whales, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.
SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc. announced in 2016 that orcas would no longer be bred at its parks following an order by the California Coastal Commission and dropping attendance since the 2013 release of the documentary
"Blackfish,'' about Tilikum, an orca who spent most of his life at SeaWorld Orlando.
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