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Sumar, the Killer Whale, dead at the age of 12

September 8, 2010

One of the problems for orcas in captivity is that they tend to die young. So it was sad, but not surprising, to hear of the death of 12-year old Sumar at SeaWorld San Diego earlier this week.  And it was even more sad to watch the video of him being removed while Orkid, his longtime friend, looks on.

Here’s part of the report from San Diego’s

SAN DIEGO — 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.

It would be nice if SeaWorld would release the results of the necropsy, because the reasons killer whales in captivity die suddenly are not very well understood. And despite what Koontz says, they DO NOT routinely live into their 30s and 40s. Of the 41 orcas still alive in captivity, only two have survived long enough to reach the age of 40, and only three have survived long enough to reach the age of 30. More than 130 have died before reaching those ages (details here).

Sumar has taken his last bow.

As an update; it has been reported that Sumar died of Intestinal/Mesenteric Volvulus. This is not an ‘illness’ that comes suddenly. Nausea, vomiting of bile, bowel movements that are mixed with blood and mucus, constipation, diarrhea, lethargy and fever occur as symptoms. Without immediate treatment, volvulus can lead to strangulation of the twisted bowel loop, ischemia, infarction, perforation, and fatal peritonitis. Since he doesn’t have the ability to speak and say, “I’m having major pain here.”, and they weren’t able to pick up on the clear signs he was mortally ill until the day before he died, they fed him antibiotics, which would do nothing to heal this particular ailment, and instead Sumar died a painful death because they are not equipped to treat such a thing.  This in despite of SeaWorld’s claims which repeatedly states, “We provide superior care for our animals”.

To give you a sense of how young orcas in captivity mostly are when they die, here is a list of orcas that have died at SeaWorld over the years, and their age at death (which doesn’t include more than a dozen stillbirths or miscarriages).

1. Shamu (F) – lived 6 years
2. Ramu – (M) lived 15 years
3. Kilroy (M) – lived 11.5 years
4. Kandu (F) – lived 4 years
5. Orky 2 (M) – lived 20 years
6. Nootka (F)– lived 20 years
7. Winston (M) – lived 15.5 years
8. Kandu 3 (F) – lived 4 years
9. Sandy (F) – lived 4.5 years
10. Kona (F) – lived 6 years
11. Canuck (M) – lived 2.5 years
12. Frankie (M) – lived 5 months
13. Kanduke (M) – lived 15 years
14. Kenau (F) – lived 15 years
15. Gudron (F) – lived 19.5 years
16. Canuck 2 (M) – lived 4 years
17. Kona 2 (F) – lived 10 years
18. Kandu 5 (F) – lived 12 years
19. Winnie (F) – lived 24.5 years
20. Kotar (M) – lived 16.5 years
21. Shawn (F) – lived 1 year
22. Kahana (F) – lived 12.5 years
23. Nootka 4 (F) – lived 12 years
24. Haidi 2 (F) – lived 19 years
25. Samoa (F) – lived 8.5 years
26. Bjossa (F) – lived 21 years
27. Katerina (F) – lived 10.5 years
28. Splash (M) – lived 15.5 years
29. Taku (M) – lived 14 years
30. Nyar (F) – lived 2 years
31. Baby – lived 38 days (Haida 2)
32. Hayln  (F) – lived 2 1/2 years
33. Taima (F) – lived 21 years
34. Baby Shamu 2 – lived 11 days (Kenau)
45. Sumar – 12 years

46. Kalina (F) – 25 years

There are lots of pics of Sumar here. And here is some video of Sumar doing what Sumar was trained to do.

RIP Sumar.

19 Comments leave one →
  1. Linnea Ernest permalink
    June 18, 2019 10:10 pm

    Sea world needs to be shut down. I no longer visit there (been 19 years), along with my family since I learned of their unethical treatment of animals. So sad & unnecessary how money is the root of all evil.

  2. Patricia McNabb permalink
    January 18, 2017 9:51 am

    This breaks my heart beyond measure and it MUST be stopped. It is beyond cruel.
    End of story.

  3. Look at the other side permalink
    August 27, 2013 10:03 am

    Have you ever owned an orca? Have you ever trained an orca? Have you ever worked at Seaworld? Animals die! Do you think they want them to die? Really? Do you have any idea what an imvestment each of those animals are? The cost to keep them healthy? the cost to feed them? Don’t forget paying all the people who train, take care of them ect…Get over it ANIMALS die! Horses can die from colic. Even with the best care and it’s painful for them. We still keep them. Horses were wild once. The rate our stupid planet is going with killing the animals, killer whales will be extinct too. We need to keep some in captivity for the species sake. The animals are not dumb and need to have something to do and if you train an animals it keeps their minds active and gives them more in shape and healthy.

    • October 27, 2013 8:56 pm

      yes, of course. animals do die. but to use that argument here is useless. you’re statements of ‘how much it costs’ to ‘take care’ and ‘train’ orcas in captivity is ridiculous. you make it sound if they MUST be held captive. to say that killer whales will be extinct if it weren’t for places like Sea World is one of the dumbest arguments I’ve ever heard then to mention ‘keeping them in shape’ ‘active’ and ‘healthy’ – how healthy would you be if you were taken as a toddler and someone sat you in a bathtub for the rest of your life – then asked you to splash around for a fee scraps of food each day. you sound foolish.

    • alyssa permalink
      August 12, 2014 1:23 pm

      Yes it is true that all animals die… BUT in the wild an orca can live so much longer then in a tank or prison cell where they have no shade from the blistering sun. If you ever watched blackfish then you would know that oracas in the wild can live just as long as a human. Where as in a tank they are only expected to live between 25-40. All orcas should stay in there natural environments. Not a prison cell. For the species sake.

    • Bodhi permalink
      May 31, 2015 10:50 pm

      This guy obviously works for SeaWorld. All you scumbags talk so much shit.

    • archangel permalink
      April 8, 2016 12:34 am

      If it’s such an investment, then why the poor conditions? It’s called an investment to the money making aspect, not the well being aspect. Any improvements is due to public scrutiny!

    • archangel permalink
      April 8, 2016 12:43 am

      Excuse me, Any improvements made is BECAUSE of public scrutiny.

  4. October 5, 2012 9:00 am

    Here is my video of Sumar has they were about to remove him from his enclosure. Taken from a helicopter. –

  5. Tiina permalink
    April 12, 2011 2:52 pm

    This makes me so angry! 30 of these amazing creatures (just the ones that are listed above) died before they even reached the age of 20, because of man’s greed, when in the wild they can live up to 80 or even up to 90 years!
    They lost their lives and for what…..

  6. September 8, 2010 11:27 pm

    saaadd,, so sadd, this world. ):

  7. Danielle permalink
    September 8, 2010 6:54 pm

    The era of “circus” like attractions is over. Seaworld needs to realize that orcas and dolphins doing flips and trick is not educational, entertaining, nor acceptable anymore.

    I really do hope more negative publicity continues for Seaworld. The longer they are in the news (and not for the right reasons), the more aware the public will become. On the other hand, I wish that all their captive orcas will one day be free or in rehabilitation in a seapen.

  8. September 8, 2010 6:14 pm

    It is really astonishing that SeaWorld continues to claim the veterinary care and captive environment provided to their orcas is “the best in the world”, pretty low standards indeed. The detrimental effects of captivity is clear.

    Does SeaWorld care? Not yet. They still have enough “assets” to put on the shows but at the alarming rate in which these orcas are dying so young, it’s only a matter of time before the numbers diminish and they will be forced to look at alternatives. I only hope they don’t wait that long before making the right decision and do what’s best for those that still have a viable chance of survival… outside of the pools.

  9. Jeff permalink
    September 8, 2010 3:15 pm

    So awful and sad that 3 orcas died young at Seaworld. How many more have to suffer an early death before captivity is brought to an end?


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  5. Dr Naomi Rose Speaks Out on GMA about Premature Captive Orca Deaths « The Orca Project

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