Less than three months after sustaining a “horrific” injury to her dorsal fin, Katina is apparently performing again at SeaWorld Orlando, though with an altered appearance that likely will remain permanent.
Heather Murphy, founder of Ocean Advocate News, told BNQT that she went to check on the injured orca Saturday and discovered her performing again. She did not know when Katina resumed working, adding that SeaWorld has not reported any updates.
“Although she does seem to be improving, her dorsal fin is permanently damaged,” Murphy told BNQT. “If she were to get an infection, it could be a death sentence for her. She has reportedly been on antibiotics for so long that her body has become resistant, and she will not be able to withstand a major infection.”
As reported by BNQT in April, Katina, the matriarch of the SeaWorld Orlando orca pod, suffered a huge cut into the backside of her dorsal fin in what SeaWorld believes to be the result of interactions with other members of the orca pod.
The injury occurred March 17. SeaWorld didn’t announce it until two weeks later, saying “it’s not clear exactly how she sustained that injury.”
Murphy called the injury “horrific.” She captured an image of its seriousness and posted it online March 31:
Murphy took another close-up photo of Katina’s injury on Saturday. It does look improved but is still significant:
SeaWorld Orlando issued its own photo of Katina as she received treatment, saying it more accurately shows her condition today:
“Although I hate to see her further exploited, I am happy that they aren’t shoving her in the back tank to be ignored like they did with Tilikum,” Murphy told BNQT, referring to the orca that was involved in the deaths of a trainer and a trespassing man at SeaWorld Orlando. It died in January 2017.
“At least she is able to stay somewhat active and socialize. She can live with the injury as long as it doesn’t get infected, as far as I know.”
SeaWorld Orlando responded Tuesday in an email to BNQT:
“The injury to Katina’s dorsal fin has continued to heal as expected. As reported in March of this year, her behavior returned to normal almost immediately following the injury. Since then, she is not showing any signs of discomfort and has been engaging with guests and the other orcas in her pod, as well as the care and veterinary staff as they continue to treat her.”
A recent YouTube video featuring long-time SeaWorld veterinarian Dr. Lara Croft addressed some of the issues in more detail.
Croft said that though Katina’s wound is deep it’s not life threatening, her blood work is not showing any signs of inflammation or infection, and she doesn’t appear to be in any pain. When trainers manipulate the wound, Katina doesn’t “show us any behavioral cues that it’s uncomfortable for her.”
“It’ll probably leave her with an altered appearance, but it’s not something that’s causing a systemic illness,” Croft added.
Some wonder why the injury isn’t simply stitched up. Croft said it has to do with the physics of it.
“Because that tissue is so thick and so heavy, and it’s made of fiber cartilage, suturing it together would require way too much tension and pressure on that tissue and would actually do more harm than good,” she said.
Katina isn’t the only orca with apparent issues. Murphy also pointed out a skin condition under the mouth of Malia.
“She has had the skin discoloration for close to six months following the pilot whales being moved to Shamu Stadium and the water temperature being raised,” Murphy told BNQT. “I’m not a vet, so I don’t know the technical term, but this is very similar to how Kasatka’s injury started in San Diego and she eventually died from it.”
Kasatka was a 40-year-old orca at SeaWorld San Diego that died nearly a year ago, reportedly from incurable pneumonia.
SeaWorld Orlando disputed the claim that anything is wrong, telling BNQT in an email:
“Malia, another orca in the pod, is showing a color change in certain areas of her skin. Samples revealed nothing concerning – simply put, the superficial layers of her skin are shedding more slowly, resulting in the color change. Her team of animal care and veterinary teams are monitoring the color change as it is an opportunity to learn more about the progression of skin changes in managed and free-ranging killer whales.”
Photos by ©Heather Murphy/Ocean Advocate News used by permission.