Last orca born at a SeaWorld park dies from illness in Texas

(Reuters) - A three-month-old killer whale, the last orca to be born in captivity at a SeaWorld park, died on Monday in San Antonio, Texas after suffering a possible pneumonia infection, the park said.

The calf, a female called Kyara, had been seriously ill over the past week and its condition worsened despite treatment from animal care and veterinary teams, said the park, owned by SeaWorld Entertainment Inc.

"While the official cause of death will not be determined until the post-mortem exam is complete, we know that Kyara had an infection, likely pneumonia, and that her health continued to decline," SeaWorld said in a statement.

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SAN DIEGO, CA - DECEMBER 02: In this handout photo provided by SeaWorld San Diego, mom and baby killer whale swim together at SeaWorld San Diego's Shamu Stadium December 4, 2014 in San Diego, California. Kalia, a 10-year-old killer whale, gave birth to the calf at 12:34 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 2, under the watchful eyes of SeaWorld's zoological team. The calf is estimated to weigh between 300 and 350 pounds and measure 6 to 7 feet. The gender of the calf is not yet known. As with any killer whale birth, the mother and calf are being observed round the clock for the first few weeks. (Photo by Mike Aguilera/SeaWorld San Diego via Getty Images)
Tillikum, a killer whale at SeaWorld amusement park, performs during the show "Believe" in Orlando, September 3, 2009. A killer whale at the SeaWorld amusement park in central Florida killed a trainer on February 24, 2010, police and company executives said. According to the Orlando Sentinel the orca involved in the incident, named Tillikum but popularly known as "Tilly," has a controversial past. Picture taken on September 3, 2009. REUTERS/Mathieu Belanger/Files (UNITED STATES - Tags: ANIMALS DISASTER IMAGES OF THE DAY)
Young children get a close-up view of an Orca killer whale during a visit to the animal theme park SeaWorld in San Diego, California March 19, 2014 REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo
Trainers have Orca killer whales perform for the crowd during a show at the animal theme park SeaWorld in San Diego, California March 19, 2014. A California lawmaker introduced a bill to ban live performances and captive breeding of killer whales in the state, a measure that would force the SeaWorld San Diego marine theme park to end is popular "Shamu" shows. REUTERS/Mike Blake (UNITED STATESANIMALS ENVIRONMENT SOCIETY TRAVEL)
An Orca killer whale is seen underwater at the animal theme park SeaWorld in San Diego, California March 19, 2014. A California lawmaker introduced a bill to ban live performances and captive breeding of killer whales in the state, a measure that would force the SeaWorld San Diego marine theme park to end is popular "Shamu" shows. REUTERS/Mike Blake (UNITED STATES - Tags: ANIMALS ENVIRONMENT SOCIETY TRAVEL)
Trainers have Orca killer whales perform for the crowd during a show at the animal theme park SeaWorld in San Diego, California March 19, 2014. A California lawmaker introduced a bill to ban live performances and captive breeding of killer whales in the state, a measure that would force the SeaWorld San Diego marine theme park to end is popular "Shamu" shows. REUTERS/Mike Blake (UNITED STATESANIMALS ENVIRONMENT SOCIETY TRAVEL)
Visitors are splashed by Orca killer whales as they attend a show at the animal theme park SeaWorld in San Diego, California March 19, 2014. A California lawmaker introduced a bill to ban live performances and captive breeding of killer whales in the state, a measure that would force the SeaWorld San Diego marine theme park to end is popular "Shamu" shows. REUTERS/Mike Blake (UNITED STATES - Tags: ANIMALS ENVIRONMENT SOCIETY TRAVEL)
Visitors are greeted by an Orca killer whale as they attend a show featuring the whales during a visit to the animal theme park SeaWorld in San Diego, California March 19, 2014. A California lawmaker introduced a bill to ban live performances and captive breeding of killer whales in the state, a measure that would force the SeaWorld San Diego marine theme park to end is popular "Shamu" shows. REUTERS/Mike Blake (UNITED STATES - Tags: ANIMALS ENVIRONMENT SOCIETY TRAVEL)
THE DANNY THOMAS HOUR -- 'Sea World' Episode 6 -- Pictured: Host Danny Thomas kisses Shamu the Whale at Sea World San Diego -- (Photo by: NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
Park President John Reilly,Left, and Head Killer Whale Trainer Robin Sheets speak at Seaworld in San Diego, CA on Tuesday, June 24, 2014. After last years Blackfish, a widely seen documentary about SeaWorld's whales and the trainers injured or killed by them, a California assembly member proposed a law banning killer whale shows in San Diego. That bill was tabled after outcry from political leaders in San Diego, who view the park as vital to the regional economy. (Photo by Sandy Huffaker/Corbis via Getty Images)
Friends of SeaWorld, We are extremely saddened to announce the passing of Kyara, our newest killer whale calf. (1/3… https://t.co/GZssBW0myb
SAN DIEGO, CA - FEBRUARY 14: In this handout photo provided by SeaWorld San Diego, mom and baby killer whale swim together at SeaWorld San Diego's Shamu Stadium February 14, 2013 in San Diego, California. Kasatka, a killer whale who is approximately 37 years old, gave birth to the calf this morning at 6:33 a.m. under the watchful eyes of SeaWorld's zoological team. The calf is estimated to weigh between 300 and 350 pounds and measure 6 to 7 feet. The gender of the calf is not yet known. As with any killer whale birth, the mother and calf will be observed round the clock for the first few days. (Photo by Mike Aguilera/SeaWorld San Diego via Getty Images)
Trainers have Orca killer whales perform for the crowd during a show at the animal theme park SeaWorld in San Diego, California March 19, 2014. A California lawmaker introduced a bill to ban live performances and captive breeding of killer whales in the state, a measure that would force the SeaWorld San Diego marine theme park to end is popular "Shamu" shows. REUTERS/Mike Blake (UNITED STATESANIMALS ENVIRONMENT SOCIETY TRAVEL)
Visitors get a close-up view of an Orca killer whale during a visit to the animal theme park SeaWorld in San Diego, California March 19, 2014. A California lawmaker introduced a bill to ban live performances and captive breeding of killer whales in the state, a measure that would force the SeaWorld San Diego marine theme park to end is popular "Shamu" shows. REUTERS/Mike Blake (UNITED STATES - Tags: ANIMALS ENVIRONMENT SOCIETY TRAVEL)
A trainer shows the crowd a killer whale during a show at the animal theme park SeaWorld in San Diego, California March 19, 2014. A California lawmaker introduced a bill to ban live performances and captive breeding of killer whales in the state, a measure that would force the SeaWorld San Diego marine theme park to end is popular "Shamu" shows. REUTERS/Mike Blake (UNITED STATES - Tags: ANIMALS ENVIRONMENT SOCIETY TRAVEL)
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Kyara was born in April to a 25-year-old orca named Takara, who was already pregnant when the company said in 2016 that it was suspending its captive breeding program and phasing out killer whale shows at its three parks in Orlando, Florida; San Diego, California; and San Antonio.

Attendance at SeaWorld theme parks has been falling amid bad publicity and criticism from animal rights activists upset by the treatment of captive marine mammals.

Colleen O'Brien, vice president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), said on Monday that it was time for SeaWorld to release the 22 orcas still housed at parks to seaside sanctuaries.

"Forty orcas have now died at SeaWorld parks," she said in a statement after receiving news of Kyara's death. "SeaWorld has to move the remaining animals before the death toll hits 41."

SeaWorld officials said Kyara's pneumonia was not caused by being in captivity and the infection has been identified as one of the most common causes of illness in whales and dolphins, including those in the wild.

Other whales in the San Antonio orca pod were behaving normally on Monday and showed no signs of the illness, park officials said.

(Reporting by Gina Cherelus in New York; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Frances Kerry)

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