On Monday, a captive 18-year-old orca named Unna died of a fungal infection in a tank at SeaWorld San Antonio, marking the third whale to die at the park this year. While SeaWorld’s website, SeaWorld Cares, announced that the infection—called candida—is found in whales in the wild, according to The Merck Veterinary Manual, this type of infection is more common in captivity and “occurs secondary to stress, unbalanced water disinfection with chlorines, or indiscriminate antibiotic therapy.” Following the release of CNN documentary Blackfish, SeaWorld has struggled to keep its image, profits, and attendance in the green. New CEO Joel Manby retracted his initial promise to dedicate $100 million to building larger tanks—after the California Coastal Commission planned to bar the park from breeding whales in captivity—in favor of restructuring SeaWorld’s image into one of a conservationist organization as opposed to the animal entertainment empire it is known to be. Furthermore, former employee Sarah Fischbeck recently spoke candidly about the cramped, dangerous, and stressful conditions of animals held at SeaWorld’s San Diego location. While SeaWorld San Antonio closed for one day “in honor” of Unna, the park will continue to operate in three locations across the country despite public pleas to set whales free.
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