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August 3, 2004:

5th whale in 5 years dies at Marineland

Buffalo News, Niagara Falls, Ont.

BILL MICHELMORE, NEWS NIAGARA BUREAU

Marineland veterinarians Monday were trying to determine what caused the death of a 12-year-old killer whale - the fifth whale to die at the amusement park in less than five years. Neocia, a female show whale who was born at Marineland, died early Sunday before the park opened, said Marineland spokeswoman Ann Marie Rondinelli. The whale had been recently examined by veterinarians after she appeared to lose her appetite and wasn't "acting normally," Rondinelli said. But blood tests showed nothing out of the ordinary, she added. Neocia had a life expectancy of at least 25 years, officials said. "Marineland staff members are deeply saddened by this outcome," Rondinelli said.

There are now four killer whales and a score of beluga whales at the 42-year-old tourist attraction. The first whale death was in December 1999, when a female beluga died of liver failure caused by parasites the animal had picked up while still in the wild. Park veterinarians said the whale, who was quite old, would have died whether she lived in the marine park or in her natural habitat. The second death, about 10 weeks later, was a 31/2-year-old Orca whale (Malik) who was born with a deficient immune system and had been on medication most of her life, park officials said. Veterinarians said she would have died sooner if she had been born in the wild. In August 2000, a young female beluga died of a brain hemorrhage after a petting session. Two years later, a killer whale calf (Algonquin) born at Marineland died unexpectedly.

"None of these whale deaths were caused by, or were the result of, neglect or poor medical care," Rondinelli said. "We think of these animals as family and make every effort to ensure that they receive the best of care." Marineland has also been a place of birth. In July 2002, two beluga whales were born in the park's Friendship Cove within a week of each other. The 150- and 170-pound baby whales were the first belugas to be born at the amusement park since the mammals took up residence there eight years ago.

Note: The article states that it was the fifth death in less than five years. Actually it's the seventh death in that period of time, not counting a miscarriage by Nootka 5 in the winter of 2001/2002. Missing in the list above are five year old male Nova, born to Kiska on 1996/11/06, who died on 2001/08/20, and this year's female calf of Nootka 5, born on 2004/04/07, that died sometime this May (Marineland Ontario neither gave the cause nor the exact date of death).That is the seventh time that Nootka 5 has lost a calf, including the miscarriage and Splash's transfer to Sea World California!

Note II: Neocia had a miscarriage before she died of a bacterial infection. The father is not known. Marineland Ontario has been in contact with Sea World regarding a cooperation on artificial insemination and possible exchange of semen to widen the small gene pool.

Information obtained from Steven Jacob's Orca News site