A six-year-old female orca has unexpectedly died at SeaWorld San Diego on Thursday.
The cause of death for Amaya will not be determined by veterinarians until a post mortem examination is done. That could take weeks, a park spokesperson told KSWB in San Diego.
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Park officials have described the death as "sudden and unexpected." Amaya fell ill on Wednesday and was treated immediately by marine mammal specialists and veterinarians.
Her condition "rapidly" deteriorated overnight and she died the following day.
"This is a very difficult time for those who knew and loved Amaya," a park statement read. "She inspired millions of guests to appreciate and learn more about this amazing species." The statement said her caretakers were "heartbroken."
SeaWorld has faced significant criticism from conservationists and public backlash following the release of a 2013 documentary "Blackfish." The film showcased the health toll suffered by orcas in captivity at marine parks like SeaWorld.
The species' life expectancy in the wild is roughly 50 years; in captivity, they average 10.
SeaWorld San Diego has ceased all orca breeding operations in response to a California law that made such programs illegal in 2016. However, the law has a loophole which permits keeping orcas in captivity for "educational presentations."