Killer Whale Dies At SeaWorld

Sumar Was 12 Years Old; Cause Of Death To Be Determined

A killer whale died Tuesday afternoon at SeaWorld, prompting the cancellation of whale shows at the park, officials told 10News.

According to SeaWorld officials, trainers noticed that the whale named Sumar was not feeling well on Monday. Veterinarians were notified and blood samples were taken.

Despite being given antibiotics, Sumar's condition worsened Tuesday and he was declared dead shortly before 1:45 p.m., park officials said.

"Unfortunately ... he did not respond," said SeaWorld spokesman Dave Koontz. "His condition continued to deteriorate today. ... Whatever illness he had, it moved very fast."

Park officials told 10News the 12-year-old whale had no prior history of major health problems.

The whale was removed from the park grounds and a necropsy will be performed to determine the cause of death, 10News reported.

Koontz said it was a "very sad day" for trainers and other staff members at SeaWorld.

"They love these animals," Koontz said. "They are devoted to these animals, and (the death of one is) like losing a member of their family."

Killer whales in captivity routinely live into their 30s or 40s, according to Koontz.

A spokeswoman from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals told 10News they hope Tuesday's tragedy will send a message to SeaWorld.

"I'm not surprised. It's going to keep happening over and over again," Debbie Leahy of PETA told 10News. "These animals are dying prematurely in captivity."

Leahy said that circling in a concrete tank at a theme park was never a life at all.

"It's impossible to provide them with an appropriate environment," said Leahy. "They are living in concrete bathtubs... [or] what equates to a bathtub for an animal the size of a killer whale."

The Shamu Stadium was closed for the rest of the day and shows scheduled at the stadium were canceled.

Shows are expected to resume on Wednesday.

10News reported Sumar was just four months old when he arrived at SeaWorld in 1999. 10News also learned new details about Sumar and his parents, who are no strangers to the spotlight.

Sumar was fathered by Tilikum, the same orca which kiled an Orlando trainer earlier this year. His mother was Taima, a 20-year-old killer whale, that attacked Sumar in Orlando when he was just a calf, forcing trainers to permanently separate the two. In June, Taima died while giving birth, along with her unborn calf.

SeaWorld issued the following statement:

It is with great sadness that SeaWorld announces that Sumar, a 12-year-old male killer whale, died at approximately 1:45 p.m. today (Tuesday, Sept. 7, 2010). The exact cause of death will not be known until the results of a necropsy are complete. The entire SeaWorld team is deeply saddened by the loss.

Trainers had noticed that Sumar was acting lethargic yesterday (Sept. 6, 2010) afternoon. Park veterinarians began a regimen of antibiotics to help try to stabilize his condition while they attempted to determine the cause of his illness. His condition worsened today and a decision was made to cancel the 12:30 p.m. Shamu show, so that trainers and veterinarians could continue to devote their full attention to Sumar. Despite these efforts, Sumar did not survive.

We do not know at this time what caused Sumar’s death. A necropsy will be performed today, the results of which could take several weeks.