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Killer Whale Nami Dies in Captivity

January 16, 2011
Nami at Port of Nagoya Aquarium August 2010

Nami at Port of Nagoya Aquarium August 2010~ (photo courtesy Chunichi Shimbun news, Japan)

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 Lifted out of Seapen at Taiji Whale Museum

Nami is shown being lifted out of her sea pen at the Taiji Whale Museum to be transported to Nagoya in June, 2010~ (photo courtesy Port of Nagoya Public Aquarium)

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.

Nami on board a barge for her 23 hour journey from the Taiji Whale Museum to Port of Nagoya Public Aquarium in June, 2010.

Nami on board a barge for her 23 hour journey from the Taiji Whale Museum to Port of Nagoya Public Aquarium in June, 2010~ (photo courtesy Port of Nagoya Public Aquarium)

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.

*A video tribute to you, and your unfullfilled dream of Freedom while you were still alive.*

Rest in Peace, Nami. You are finally free.

16 Comments leave one →
  1. January 29, 2014 2:13 am

    Then those who humans. who captured it out in the wild will die too.shame on you for that cruelty to that animal

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  6. melody permalink
    November 8, 2011 5:18 pm

    why cant they just ban aquariums. if they can’t then atleast give the whales better enviroments and care. this is sad. too much whales have been dying in captivity and no ones doing anything about it. they should know its the sadness the loneliness and everything else thats making them die. i saw the documentary “The Cove” and i say that was the most horrible thing ever. 100,000 or more dolphins die every year in japan because they are being a “nuisance” to fisherman. really now. be realistic.

    ❤ Nami

  7. January 21, 2011 11:42 am

    So sad to hear about this beautiful animal passing on. What a horrible way to die, alone and without your family there. I’ve shared the link on my site as well, to ensure that as many people as possible hear about this. Here’s hoping that we can make some people see the harm that human’s are causing.

  8. January 20, 2011 1:52 am

    Thank you TOP, for another great article.

  9. from Japan permalink
    January 19, 2011 3:14 am

    Hi, I am Japanese, and this is the first time to write in this blog. Last Oct, I saw Nami at my first visit to Nagoya aquarium. She was just floating in the tiny swimming pool and gazed at the same spot with empty eyes. Just floating and taking the same pose for long hours. She looked so lonely. When I saw her, things I had seen and enjoyed at the aquarium was vanished away. After I came back home, I slightly studied about orca’s biological features. I knew they live much longer and I knew they live with their family. Then I researched how Nami was taken to such small pool in Nagoya aquarium. I knew that tremendous amount of money: five hundred million yen, was given and taken between Port of Nagoya and the whale museum inTaji, Wakayama prefecture. URL of Port of Nagoya Whale Museum
    This town is well known via the movie “The Cope”. I had no interest in watching this movie until I saw Nami in the aquarium. This is the most shameful and barbaric action people in Nagoya have taken to such an innocent beautiful animal. Now they are planning to have the third scarification from Kamogawa sea world for a good cause: artificial breeding. This is a complete nonsense. Even non experts or a third grade kids rcan easily think of. Kamogawa sea world and Taji museum take sea water directly from the ocean for orca, but Nagoya aquarium’s water is artificially made and so small. Condition was totally different. But I am not talking just from bad conditions. I am talking about moral issue. We must leave them alone and warmly keep watching them.
    Nami’s family is all dead at the different aquariums. I had a strong sense of aversion towards fishermen in Taji town after I saw Nami. I can’t forget Nami’s sad face. She finally became free and be with her families in the heaven. Call up or write to the Mayor of Nagoya city. We should not be quiet about this tragic.

  10. Kat permalink
    January 17, 2011 7:23 am

    When is John Q. Public going to realize they are killing theses beautiful animals … every time I see a smiling tourist I just want to stick them in a glass room and make them do tricks for food……lets see the tricks…. maybe jumping in the air and doing back flips… they should all be able to learn right? The food… how about frozen bits of fish…. after all if is good enough for the orcas should be good enough for those that cause the captivity!

  11. Marguerite Blake permalink
    January 16, 2011 6:14 pm

    Rest In Peace Nami. I am so sorry humans have put $$ more important than the freedom you deserved in the wild with other wild Orcas doing what Orcas were meant to do in the wild; away from your predator the human. May through your death humans realize that all wild animals need to be free from human confinement.

  12. Bunny permalink
    January 16, 2011 5:24 pm

    This is insane, after all those years she spent gazing out at the open ocean, I can’t believe that it’s come to an end like this, it CAN’T end like this! 😦 Why am I not surprised that Seaworld is involved? Some day I hope that somebody throws them to a bunch of sharks, I really do.

    Goodbye Nami, we love you.


  1. Body of Killer Whale Nami Dug Up for Display at Taiji Whale Museum « The Orca Project
  2. Quora
  3. Autopsy Shows Killer Whale Nami Swallowed 180 lbs of Stones Before Death « The Orca Project
  4. Exclusive Interview #2: Former SeaWorld trainer Carol Ray talks orca safety & separation with T.O.P. « The Orca Project

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