When Unna was hit by a ferocious fungal infection in the fall, SeaWorld San Antonio consulted with experts around the world to develop a “novel treatment plan” for the ailing killer whale.
Officials administered doses of a medication that is routine in humans, but not previously used in a killer whale to try to keep Unna’s particularly resistant strain of Candida at bay. At first, she seemed to bounce back, but on Monday, just a few days shy of her 19th birthday, Unna died.
“We are saddened to share the passing of Unna today,” the facility announced.
“Unna had been under the constant care of the SeaWorld veterinary team and outside experts for the past several months. Unna suffered from a resistant strain of a fungus called Candida, and the team had developed a novel treatment plan in consultation with leading medical experts around the country. While there were some indications that the treatment was having a positive effect, Unna had remained in serious condition and under 24/7 care. Candida, and fungal infections in general, are found in wild cetaceans. A necropsy will be performed to determine the ultimate cause of her death.”
There was the usual outpouring of sympathy — and outrage — by members of the public about Unna’s death. Comments posted on SeaWorld’s Facebook page and Twitter ranged from condolences to those who loved the orca to outrage that the animal was in captivity in the first place.
SeaWorld has come under fire since the documentary Blackfish was released a couple of years ago. Bending to public pressure, it said earlier this year that it would phase out its killer whale shows at its San Diego park. Some have said that still doesn’t go far enough.
Unna was born Dec. 27, 1996. She was 17 feet long and weighed more than 4,600 pounds. Officials said she cooperated with health exams during her around-the-clock care including providing urine for analysis twice a day for monitoring and offered her tail fluke for blood withdrawals.
“In honor of Unna, we have decided to cancel all the killer whale shows at SeaWorld San Antonio today,” SeaWorld said. “This is a difficult time for the SeaWorld team and all of Unna’s many fans, and we thank you for your thoughts and well wishes.”