'Shame on Marineland': 'World's loneliest orca' Kiska dies, ending tragic era of captivity in Canada

After 11 years in solitude, Canada's last captive orca dies amidst calls to 'prosecute Marineland'

Kiska, also known as the world's loneliest orca, has died at Marineland in Niagara Falls, Ont. on March 9.

"The ministry was advised by Marineland that the whale named Kiska passed away at Marineland on March 9, 2023. A necropsy was conducted by professionals retained by Marineland," Brent Ross, a spokesperson of Ontario's solicitor general wrote in an emailed statement to local press.

She was believed to be 47 years old.

"Marineland's marine mammal care team and experts did everything possible to support Kiska’s comfort and will mourn her loss," the theme park said in a statement to local media.

Kiska was captured at three-years-old in North Atlantic waters, alongside another orca named Kieko, star of the 1993 film Free Willy.

While Keiko was rehabilitated and moved back to familiar waters off the coast of Iceland, Kiska was moved around several North American aquariums before being transferred to her final home at Ontario's Marineland.

During her captivity at Marineland, Kiska gave birth to five calves, all who tragically died shortly after birth. Since 2011, Kiska was held in solitariy confinement, thus earning her the nickname 'the world's lonliest orca.'

Orcas, known to travel in pods are social animals. Videos began emerging of Kiska floating listlessly in her tank or bumping her head repeatedly against the tank wall — a toll solitary confinement was having on the mammal.

"We are calling on provincial authorities to make public the results of a post-mortem, and prosecute Marineland for the unlawful distress Kiska clearly experienced throughout her final years," Camille Labchuk, executive director of Animal Justice told CBC News in a statement.

Kiska's passing also marks the end of orcas being held in captivity across Canada, due to a landmark bill being passed in Canadian legislation during 2019, which bans whales, dolphins and porpoises from being held in captivity. Anyone found in violation of this bill would face up to a $200,000 fine.

An exemption of the bill was not enough to free Kiska — marine mammals already held would be allowed to remain in captivity.

Kiska's passing resulted in an outpouring of tributes posted to social media from animal activists and organizations, to members of the public who wanted to share their response.