Killer Whale Nami Dies in Captivity
The Orca Project is saddened by the passing of yet another captive orca. Nami, a female killer whale died on Friday, January 14, 2011 in a Japanese marine park known as the Port of Nagoya Public Aquarium. She was 28 years young and was the last surviving orca captured in Japanese waters.
According to reports published by the Nagoya Port Foundation and the Japanese newspaper Chunichi Shimbun, Nami lost her appetite, was losing weight and became sick in late December and was moved to a medical pool on January 11. She was undergoing 24-hour care and medical treatment until she passed away at 7:24 pm on January 14. Preliminary reports indicated that she was suffering from Ulcerative Colitis, an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which is a general name for diseases that cause the intestine to become inflamed. Many factors can lead to Ulcerative Colitis attacks, including respiratory infections and physical stress. A necropsy is planned and The Orca Project will share those results when they become available.
Update from The Orca Project- February 2, 2011:
The Port of Nagoya Public Aquarium has released the results of a necropsy performed on Nami; The facility states that she suffered from a stomach ulcer and pneumonia after swallowing 491 stones weighing 81.4 kilograms (179.5 lbs) which became lodged in her stomach during her 24 years at the Taiji Whale Museum. An ulcer was found in another pocket of her stomach, and bleeding from the spleen and enteritis were also diagnosed.
Click HERE for The Orca Project’s report on Nami’s cause of death.
In October of 1985, Nami (also known as Nami-chan) was barely 3 years old when she was captured off the coast of Taiji, Japan along with Goro, a younger male orca, and both were sent to the Taiji Whale Museum. One month after their capture, Goro was sold to Nanki Adventure World in Japan where he spent 19 years in captivity until his death from pneumonia on January 21, 2005.
Nami remained at the Taiji Whale Museum for 24 years in an enclosed sea pen at the seaside marine park until June 19 of last year when she was sent by barge on a 23-hour journey to the Port of Nagoya Public Aquarium to become a part of a breeding program in conjunction with Kamogawa SeaWorld. The only other orca to reside at the Port of Nagoya, a female named Ku, arrived on a breeding loan from the Taiji Whale Museum in October, 2003. She died nearly 5 years later on September 19, 2008 from heart failure. She never bore a calf via artificial insemination (AI) during her time at Nagoya. Nami was to take over where her former tank-mate Ku had left off. It is unknown if the planned attempts at AI began prior to Nami’s death. Unfortunately, her life was cut short and her death shows the lengths marine parks are willing to go to in their attempt to keep the marine mammal entertainment industry alive and profitable… but in the process, innocent lives continue to be sacrificed.
“When I first went to Taiji with Ric O’Barry, we were staying in a local hotel that backed up on the infamous Taiji Whale Museum. We could see the tanks and blocked-off cove with captives from the windows right outside our rooms in the hall. The Museum is a weird assortment of very desultory captive dolphins of many species (all ripped from their pods in the killing Cove just around the headland, within a ten-minute walk) and the bones and implements of whaling. The museum shop sells whale meat to the tourists.
The saddest thing for me was a lonely orca, kept in a large cove netted off from the other cetaceans, the one representative of the species. There were silly shows on a daily basis, in which the orca would swim around, wave its tail or flipper at the crowd, jump, and do other tricks for the public. The rest of the time, which was most of the time, the orca stayed at the surface, its head underneath the wooden pier from which its trainers would come to feed it and make it go through the tricks. Often, it would swim in a wide circle around its cove, but always ending up at the same place. It would be hard to imagine a more dead prison for a wild animal.”
~ excerpt from “One Sad Orca” by Mark J. Palmer, Associate Director, International Marine Mammal Project, Earth Island Institute
Now with no orcas in their inventory, The Port of Nagoya Aquarium must await the arrival of 29-year-old male Bingo and 25-year-old female Stella from Kamogawa SeaWorld, scheduled to take place in January or February of this year. The planned transfer for breeding purposes would separate Stella from her three daughters; 13-year-old Lovey, 9-year-old Lara and 4-year-old Ran 2, who will be left behind at Kamogawa. Stella’s only other known offspring, a 2-year-old female, Sarah, died of unknown causes on April 26, 2006. It was also expected that Bingo would breed with Nami, but given the change in events, it’s not known if the transfers will move forward. The Orca Project will bring you the latest developments on Bingo and Stella’s story as news unfolds.
As we reported in our exclusive interview with former SeaWorld trainer Carol Ray in November, the transfers of orcas between marine parks can lead to stress and trauma which undoubtedly has negative health ramifications. Nami’s 23-hour transfer by barge from Taiji to Nagoya last June, along with the change in her environment, most likely triggered the chain of events which led to extreme stress and her untimely death.
Nami’s death brings the total number of orcas held in captivity worldwide to 41. The United States, which holds the largest number of captive orcas, 21, has seen its share of premature orca deaths recently with the passing of 20-year-old Taima and her stillborn calf, 12-year-old Sumar and the “Original Baby Shamu” Kalina, age 25… all at SeaWorld parks. In the wild, male orcas live an average of 30+ yrs and females 50+ yrs although many can live well into their 80s or 90s. Nami now joins the ever growing list of orcas that lived a life of stress in captivity… and died too young. All in the name of corporate profit.
Rest in Peace, Nami. You are finally free.