ORLANDO, Fla. — Kayla, a 30-year-old orca at SeaWorld Orlando, died Monday.

  • 30-year-old female orca dies
  • Kayla begin showing signs of discomfort Saturday
  • Cause of death not yet known

SeaWorld said the whale began showing signs of discomfort Saturday, and despite treatment and around the clock care, her condition worsened on Sunday. Kayla died with her animal care specialist by her side, SeaWorld said. 

The cause of Kayla's death is not yet known, but the park says it will do a post-mortem examination, which may take several weeks.

"While today is a difficult day for all of us at SeaWorld, Kayla inspired generations of guests and employees to care and learn more about this amazing species," Seaworld said in a statement.

Park visitors had mixed reactions to the orca's death.

"Honestly, it is really sad," Katherine Jacobsen said. "I mean, I understand the benefits of rehabilitation, and I understand the benefits of getting animals back out to the wild if they need to be contained for a short period of time. But I don't think they should be in captivity for up to 30 years."

Kayla was born in 1988 at SeaWorld San Antonio. In 2006, she was moved to SeaWorld Orlando, where she was one of the largest orcas at the park.

In 2016, SeaWorld announced it was ending its orca breeding program. Since then, Kayla was one of only six killer whales left at the park. 

On SeaWorld's website, the company states that female killer whales will live an average of 46 to 50 years of age, while males will live about 30 to 38 years. Those numbers differ from estimates from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Marine Mammal Laboratory, which says wild orcas can life as long as 50 to 80 years. 

Spectrum News 13's Erin Murray contributed to this report. 

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