Canada’s Last Captive Orca Whale Sadly & Mercifully Dies At Marineland

Kiska’s Death at Niagara Falls, Ontario Amusement Death Hopefully Marks the End of These Great Whales Being Held in Captivity for Humans’ Amusement

A News Commentary by Niagara At Large reporter and publisher Doug Draper

March 11th, 2023 on Niagara At Large

Kiska, an orca or species of whale more commonly and callously referred to by humans as a “killer whale,” died at Marineland in Niagara Falls, Ontario this past March 9th.

Kiska, the orca whale, serving more than 40 years in captivity at Marineland in Niagara Falls,, Ontario

This magnificent member of a marine mammal family known to be highly social it natural environment of oceans and seas, lived out all but three of her 47 years in cement ponds at the Marineland amusement park – the last 11or so of them as the only captive orca left in this park and in all of Canada.

People protesting year after year in front of Marineland. File photo by Doug Draper

Animal protection advocates, many of them calling for Kiska to be transferred to a  sanctuary for marine mammals, took to calling Kiska “the world’s loneliest orca” as videos they shot in the park showed her drifting listlessly in her tank and, at least in one case, banging herself against the tank’s sides.

On the other hand, media outlets have published a quote from individuals working for Marineland that reads; “Marine mammal care team and experts did everything possible to support Kiska’s comfort and will mourn her loss.”

At the risk of getting into an argument with at least some people who rightfully advocate keeping these great animals in captivity, I have no reason to doubt that Marineland and its team – operating as they do inside a bubble and culture of exhibiting animals in aquariums or zoos – mourn the loss of Kiska.

I am also sure, that in the collective minds of the marine mammal care team and those it worked for, it did everything possible within the confines of the park to employ veterinarians, etc. to provide the best care possible for this animal.

Going back to Marineland’s opening by its now late founder John Holer in 1961, representatives of the park have adamantly pushed back against any and all charges that it has abused or mistreated animals in any way.

But there are different definitions of what constitutes abuse and for me and many others, abuse includes abducting one of these amazing animals from its family or “pod” in the ocean and making it live in a tub of chlorinated water for the rest of its life for the amusement or curiosity or whatever else you want to call it of humans.

And end of season protest in front of Marineland before the pandemic. file photo by Doug Draper

Fortunately, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his Liberal government made one of its better, gutsier decisions for wildlife and biodiversity on this earth about four years ago when it passed a motion to ban any further capture of marine mammals by amusement parks or any other venues for our entertainment.

Unfortunately, there was a grandfather clause in the legislation that allowed Marineland to keep Kiska and whatever other marine mammals, including beluga whales, walruses and dolphins, it has had in the park.

(To watch a video of Kiska’s lonely existence, produced a few years ago by former Marineland marine mammal trainer Phil Demers, click on the screen immediately below.)

As a reporter who I believe I can safely say was among the first, if not the first in Niagara to write stories about former marine mammal trainers at Marineland and others questioning the whole business of keeping these animals in captivity while I was still working in the 1980s and 90s for the still independent, locally owned St. Catharines Standard, I say now that mourning Kiska’s death is not enough.

What we should be mourning is the full 44 or so years that this great whale was kept in captivity.

And for now at least, I will end with this.

It is easy to question or condemn Marineland for all of the years it has kept these animals in captivity.

But those I focus blame on the most are all of  the people who have paid money to go through the gates of this park to view these animals for their amusements. It is especially upsetting that so many adults over the years, from parents to school teachers, felt that this was an acceptable way to expose children to some of the most amazing and intelligent beings on this earth.

In interviews with Marineland founder John Holer way back when, he often stressed the point that his park would not have become the tourist empire it did in Niagara Falls if countless tens of thousands did not pay their way through its gates each summer.

And indeed, there were the sprawling parking lots full of cars and the busloads of people debarking at those gates to show it.

(To watch another video report on Kiska and her last years at Marineland, click on the screen immediately below.)

It is easy to point fingers at Marineland, but the real reason animals like Kiska have been held captive in amusement parks like this is the lack of reverence too many humans show for them.

Shame on us.

Niagara At Large will likely have more on this later. Stay Tuned.

  • Doug Draper, Niagara At Large

For related stories posted by Niagara At Large and other media outlets, here are some links – .

Latest Marineland Story Is Just So Sad | Niagara At Large

Marineland Owner & Major Niagara Falls Tourist Industry Operator John Holer Dies at 83 | Niagara At Large

NIAGARA AT LARGE Encourages You To Join The Conversation By Sharing Your Views On This Post In The Space Following The Bernie Sanders Quote Below.

“A Politician Thinks Of The Next Election. A Leader Thinks Of The Next Generation.” – Bernie Sanders


One response to “Canada’s Last Captive Orca Whale Sadly & Mercifully Dies At Marineland

  1. Kiska’s death, swift necropsy and burial so soon after Smooshi and her baby (walruses at Marineland) were whisked away far across the world, smells fishy to me. – Sheila Krekorian


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