Orca Profiles in Captivity: #2 of the San Diego 10

by on April 22, 2014 · 24 comments

in California, Culture, Environment, History, Ocean Beach, Organizing, San Diego, World News

Orca K no2 SD10

Kasatka and calf

This is the second in a series of ten in which we meet one of the San Diego 10 orcas and hear from an advocate who continues to be one of the voices of these imprisoned voiceless, never stopping until the whole world listens.

Prisoner #2: Kasatka

Age: About 36

Captured off the coast of Iceland, on October 26, 1978, Kasatka was just one year old when torn from her pod. Kasatka, whose name comes from the generic Russian derivative of the word “orca,” is 17.7 feet (5.4m) long and weighs 5,950 pounds (2,700 kg.)

Each of Kasatka’s children is captive born. She gave birth to four offspring: Takara, Nakai, Kalia, and Makani. Nakai, born on September 1, 2001, is the first orca to be born as a result of artificial insemination. While his mother, Kasatka, lived in California, his father, Tilikum, was in Florida. Tilikum is featured in the documentary, “Blackfish.” More on Nakai later in this series.

Kasatka’s first child, Takara, was born at Sea World, San Diego on July 9, 1991. Takara’s father is Kotar, like Kasatka, captured in Icelandic waters in 1978 very young, probably less than one year old. He spent his first couple years of captivity at SeaWorld San Diego, moved to SeaWorld Orlando where he bit another male orca’s penis (Kanduke) and was then moved to SeaWorld San Antonio (1988). On April 1, 1995, Kotar died from a fractured skull and severe blood loss caused by a gate closing on his head.

For the first 13 years of Takara’s life, she and Kasatka had a very close bond and spent a lot of time together. In the wild, orcas generally live in close-knit family pods consisting of several females, calves, one or more males and/or juveniles. There are some pods that consist of a mother and her offspring who stay with her for life. Many pods have been documented as stable, consistent matriarchal family groups with several generations traveling together.

Kasatka became a grandmother for the very first time when Takara gave birth to her first calf, a female born on May 3, 2002, named Kohana, the second orca calf bred via artificial insemination, also with Tilikum (who sired Nakai in the same manner with Kasatka). Despite orcas’ natural history of matrilineal pods, Takara was taken away from her mother and moved to Sea World Orlando with her daughter, Kohana, on April 24, 2004 – ten years ago this week.

Takara gave birth a second time, on November 23, 2005, to a male named Trua. Soon thereafter, Takara’s daughter Kohana was taken from her, at less than four years old, and moved to Loro Parque in the Canary Islands in the eastern Atlantic (territory of Spain), where she is one of six orcas on paid loan by SeaWorld.

In February 2009, Takara was also separated from her son, Trua, and moved to SeaWorld San Antonio, where she gave birth in 2010 to a female, Sakari, and most recently in December 2013, to another female, Kamea. At 22 years old, Takara has borne four calves; her mother, Kasatka, has borne four at 35 years old.

Takara’s daughter, Kohana, at 12 has been bred twice since her move to the Canary Islands – the first at just eight years old to a son, Adan, the second at 10 years old to a daughter, Victoria. Kohana rejected both calves, and her daughter died within a year of birth (June 2013).

On December 21, 2004, Kalia (“Beauty” in Hawaiian) was born to Kasatka. Her father is Keet, and she is known as the great grand baby of Shamu. Keet was born at Sea World San Antonio, sired by Kotar who fathered Kalia’s half-sister, Takara. Keet is known as the most heavily transported orca in captive history. This poor orca was separated from his mother at just 18 months. At five years old he was moved to San Diego, where he spent five months before being flown to the now defunct Sea World Ohio. After just one season there he was returned to San Diego. He is 75 percent Icelandic and 25 percent Southern Resident. More on Keet and Kalia later in this series.

Recently, on February 14, 2013, Kasatka gave birth to her fourth calf, a male, conceived via artificial insemination. At birth, Makani (Hawaiian for “Wind”) measured about 6.5 feet and weighed in between 300 and 350 pounds.

Makani’s father is Kshamenk, an Argentinian orca. Kshamenk was wild caught and kept alone in a tank that is far too small for him in Argentina—where he still lives in quiet desperation. Kshamenk (pronounced sha-MEN-k), meaning “orca” in Yamana. Kshamenk is known as “the loneliest orca in the world” and for good reason. He was taken from the wild off the coast of Argentina in 1992. The population he comes from is unknown. He was approximately five years old at the time, making him roughly 26 years old. Initial reports said that Kshamenk, along with three members of his pod, had stranded and been “rescued” by Mundo Marino.

However, it was later revealed that Mundo Marino had “force stranded” the whales by placing a large net between the whales and the shore. When the tide went out, the whales were left stranded on the beach. One was released, one died on the way to the aquarium, one beat himself to death on the walls of his enclosure, and one, Kshamenk, survived.

When Kshamenk arrived at Mundo Marino he was kept with a female orca, “Belen.” They performed in the orca show together for eight years. Kshamenk impregnated Belen in 1998 but the calf was stillborn 16 months later. Belen died shortly after in February 2000, leaving Kshamenk alone. On February 14, 2013, Kshamenk became a father via artificial insemination to Makani, a male calf born to Kasatka at Sea World San Diego, and on December 6, 2013, to a female calf named Kamea, born to Kasatka’s daughter, Takara, at SeaWorld San Antonio on December 6, 2013.

Kshamenk now swims endlessly in circles in a tiny pool designed to fit the size of a bottlenose dolphin, not a full grown male killer whale. The pool that imprisons him is filled with filthy, toxic runoff. In spite of the appeals of over 35 global, anti-captivity organizations for his rehabilitation and release — including Wild Earth Foundation, Humane Society of the United States, Cetacean Society International, and Earth Island Institute—the Secretary of the Environment of Argentina and CITES Argentina denied the request of Mundo Marino to export the whale. (In Argentina it is illegal to export native fauna, and as a wild born orca, Kshamenk is considered part of the commonwealth.) After a veterinary evaluation in 2006, Kshamenk was considered non-releasable.

Kshamenk still lives in his horrific state of solitary confinement at Mundo Marino Argentina and though the efforts to save him still exist, his health is deteriorating. We pray it’s not too late to save him.

Orcas, as we know, are highly sensitive, brilliantly intelligent beings. What happens to one of them literally affects them all in different ways. It is no wonder so many of them have gone mad from such enslavement and cruelty—their anguish and terror passed from generation to generation.

Having known continuous separation and stress since she was a baby it is not a surprise that Kasatka has shown aggression to humans. In 1993 Kasatka tried to bite a trainer during a show, and again in 1999. On November 30, 2006, Kasatka grabbed the same trainer from the 1999 incident, Ken Peters, and dragged him underwater twice during their show. The trainer survived with minor injuries.

Kasatka and her three children with her in San Diego (Nakai, Kalia and Makani) are the least viable San Diego 10 candidates for release into the open ocean to prevent interbreeding in the wild. It would be considered unethical to split Kasatka from her children, and whale conservationists consider it unethical to introduce foreign DNA into a wild ocean pod. The fact is there are several populations of killer whales in the wild with no evidence of interbreeding for thousands of years. The goal would be for captive-bred orcas to be released only into sea pens where they could live out their lives in safe sanctuaries within their own pods.

Kasatka, we are doing all we can to help you…

Prisoner Advocate: Diana Ferrari Parker

Orca Sponsor N2

Diana Ferrari Parker

Diana was born in Argentina and now lives in Point Loma, in San Diego, ever since she arrived in the United States years ago. As a retired Social Worker, Diana has traveled around the world, speaks more than two languages, and has “…seen the good and the not so good in many countries and cultures.”

When Diana first arrived in San Diego she says:

“I visited different places, one of them was Sea World. I was impressed by the orcas’ beauty and size; though at the same time it shocked and broke my heart that such huge mammals had to live in cement pools. The orcas’ beauty instilled in me a deep passion and interest, causing me to study their life in the wild. Ultimately, it motivated me to become an activist for these magnificent mammals.

“I learned how intelligent and emotional they are, and their unique way of life. In the wild, orcas live in family groups their entire life, and it is believed their family instinct is more developed than human beings. They even have their own sounds and language, allowing distinct communication among individual families.

“It hurts me to think that such magnificent and intelligent mammals are living a captive life in chlorine cement pools with other orcas from unfamiliar families. This causes extreme stress, leading to hostilities between orcas, ending in severe injuries and death not only to the animals but trainers as well. No human has ever been injured or died from an orca in the wild.

“Although Sea World portrays itself as rescuers of marine life, their cruelty to orcas is incomprehensible. True, they rescue many other animals, but just as many are being tormented, filled with despair and enslaved. How can they continue to get away with this? Sea World’s most profitable prisoners are the orcas. The good they do for some does not erase the disgraceful treatment inflicted on the orcas in the name of money. Greed is what drives Sea World, not love!! Captivity does not benefit the wild, and it is NOT educational!!!! Animals deserve respect and fair treatment, they are not objects for our amusement and entertainment. I think Sea World should take the responsibility to retire, rehabilitate and release the orcas and become a responsible organization and continue to thrive in our community.”

Translation of Diana’s profile in Spanish:

Diana nació en Argentina, desde que llegó a Estados Unidos hace años y actualmente vive en Point Loma, en San Diego. Es trabajadora social jubilada. Diana ha viajado alrededor del mundo , habla más de dos idiomas , y ha …” visto lo bueno y lo no tan bueno en muchos países y culturas.”

Cuando Diana llegó por primera vez a San Diego, dice, ” He visitado diferentes lugares, uno de ellos fue Seaworld. Me quedé impresionada por la belleza y el tamaño de las orcas; aunque al mismo tiempo me sorprendió y me rompió el corazón que esos enormes mamíferos tuvieran que vivir en piscinas de cemento. La belleza de las orcas ‘ me inculcó una pasión e interés profundo, causando que leyera acerca de sus vidas en la naturaleza. Por ultimo, me motivó a convertirme en una activista a favor de estos magníficos mamíferos .”

“Aprendí lo inteligente y emocionales que son, y su estilo de vida único . En la naturaleza, las orcas viven en grupos familiares durante toda su vida , y se cree que su instinto familiar está más desarrollado que el de los seres humanos. Incluso tienen sus propios sonidos y lenguaje, que les permite la comunicación entre las familias individuales.”

“Me duele pensar que tan magníficos e inteligentes mamíferos esten viviendo una vida en cautiverio en piscinas de cemento con cloro y con otras orcas de familias desconocidas. Esto causa un estrés extremo, dando lugar a hostilidades entre las orcas, que terminan en lesiones graves y a veces la muerte, no sólo entre los animales, pero con los entrenadores también. Ningún ser humano nunca ha sido herido o muerto a causa de una orca en libertad.”

“Aunque Seaworld se presenta como rescatadores de la vida marina , su crueldad hacia las orcas es incomprensible!. Es cierto, ellos rescatan muchos animales , pero al igual, muchos están siendo atormentados, llenos de desesperación y esclavizados. ¿Cómo puede ser que sigan con este abuso de esclavitud? Los animales en cautiverio más lucrativos de Seawold son las orcas.

El bien que hacen para algunos animales, no borra el vergonzoso trato infligido a las orcas con fines lucrativos. La codicia es lo que motiva a Seaworld, no el amor por los animales! El cautiverio de los animales no beneficia a la naturaleza, y no es educativo!

Creo que Seaworld debe tomar la responsabilidad de retirar, rehabilitar y liberar a las orcas, convertirse en una organización responsable y seguir prosperando en nuestra comunidad “.


Send an email to the President of Argentina. http://keiko.com/alert3.html This includes a link to read in Spanish, Lea en español

Join over 27,000 signatories on a Petition to Mundo Marino

 “We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals… In a world older and more complete than ours they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth.”

Henry Beston

Cara Wilson-Granat is an author, speaker and freelance writer. Years ago one of her advertising accounts was writing for Sea World. When she recently watched Blackfish the movie changed her perspective–and in many ways her life. (www.wordsfromcara.com)

{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

Martha Sullivan April 22, 2014 at 10:14 am

Thank you for hosting this very informative series, OB Rag!


Zach Affolter April 22, 2014 at 5:50 pm

Another sad and compelling story about the San Diego 10, and in this case Kshamenk as well. Thank you for taking the time to write these. Their stories need to be told!


Cara April 24, 2014 at 3:49 pm

Thank you, Zach. Yes, Kshamenk’s story has leveled me completely. I just want to cry and scream. Something, someone must hear his/our plea to save him. You are wonderful and I can’t wait to see such a young and brilliant activist in person some day. Keep on guiding the light!


Barb Dunsmore April 23, 2014 at 5:59 am

How wonderful it is and so very important that the public get to to know each of the San Diego 10 Orcas individually and not just as another Shamu, which they are now better able to do through your writing. Thank you for this very educational series Cara Wilson-Granat. May many hearts and minds be awakened.

Thank you Di Parker for all that you do on behalf of animals.


Elizabeth Jacobelly April 23, 2014 at 9:45 pm

The more I read this series of article on the San Diego 10 the more I cannot beleive how these highly intelligent orcas are treated this way. Hearing the story of each one of them breaks my heart. Thank you Cara for personalizing these orcas and their life they suffer in captivity.
Di Parker, Thanks for advocating for the orcas and other animals.


Cara April 24, 2014 at 3:51 pm

Thank you so much, Liz! I so appreciate your support and all that YOU do constantly for these exquisite beings. You never stop and that’s amazing!


Cara April 24, 2014 at 3:45 pm

Thank you, Barb, for all that YOU do on behalf of animals too. You are a constant support in my life and I am most grateful!


Heather April 23, 2014 at 9:49 pm

Thank you for another wonderful piece. Hearing Kasatka’s story again never gets easier. She continues to be used and abused in captivity. Thank you for including commentary about Kshamenk, “the loneliest orca in captivity”, another victim of the captive industry. And to Di Parker….. thank you for all your activism for the ocras. The love you have for orcas is never-ending <3


Cara April 24, 2014 at 3:47 pm

Thank you, Heather, for being such a wonderful light on this path we’re all walking. So appreciate your good words and deeds always!


Robert Anderson April 26, 2014 at 5:05 pm

Kasatka was not originally aggressive to humans. She was one of 5 orcas [also: Kotar, Katina, Canuck II, and Kandu V] who were rotated through the dolphin petting pool at San Diego SeaWorld in the late 1970’s to early 1980’s. They were quite friendly and very careful not to harm visitors. They befriended repeat visitors and could recognize you out of hundreds of people. The first time I met Kotar, he brought me a food fish and held it up until I took it.
You knew they liked you when they started inviting you in for a swim, i.e. bite down and start pulling you into the water. Orcas and dolphins use their mouths for tactile examination. They really appreciated the trust you showed by letting them mouth a hand or arm. Kotar was the first to do this to me and either Kasatka or Katina the second. They would let go before pulling you into the water if you resisted slightly.
I came to know these orcas, except for Kandu V. They were very intelligent, gentle, and aware of you, amazingly so when you consider their ages ranged from 2 to 5 years. Sadly, Kasatka and Katina appear in ’Blackfish’ as does Kandu V, shown bleeding to death. Kotar died as described in the article, and Canuck II died the year after I knew him. Katina’s and Kasatka’s once friendly mouthing and pulling into the water have now turned dangerous. [You can see Kotar playing “Shamu” in the movie ‘Jaws 3’. He’s in the close-up scene being fed by the starlet trainer.]


Taj May 5, 2014 at 8:09 pm

I love this history & insight-


Robert Anderson May 6, 2014 at 5:59 am

Thanks! At least during their first years in captivity, these orcas got a break from training when they spent time in the petting pool. They could interact with visitors or not, as they wished. When they did, there was a handful of befriended humans who gave them affection rather than conditioning.
It’s amazing that for 2-3 years untrained people could just play with “Killer Whales”, with little to no supervision. To my knowledge, these orcas never hurt any visitor. On crowded days there could be hundreds of visitors packed shoulder to shoulder around the pool. SeaWorld had somewhat senior monitors present on these crowded days, but often there was a bored intern, sometimes no one at all.
Several of us who became friends with these orcas have written down our personal encounters of orca play, affection, and mischief. We intend to make these available on a website. Although we all once frequented SeaWorld, we are all against orca and dolphin captivity. ‘Blackfish’ mentions that recently captured orcas are friendly, but overwhelmingly it presents orcas subjected to the effects of captivity. We want people to know more about the inherent nature of orcas.


Taj May 6, 2014 at 10:20 am

Robert, your words made my eyes well up, the idea of such intimacy & connection with the eyes of Kasatka makes my heart swell and then break at the same time- I look forward to more stories from you and your group.

I am a San Diego native, b.1969- my mom was raised in Point Loma, and much of my family still lives there, and though, I have not been to SeaWorld since childhood, and inherently against big mammals in captivity- I lived under the well crafted spell of #SeaWorld for years, believing benevolence & altruism were at the core of SW’s values- Through research and films like #Blackfish & #TheCove I have come to understand the truth behind SeaWorld and an #Orca’s true nature- I am grateful for this knowledge and forever changed. I have found myself falling in love with these gorgeous, highly evolved creatures and feel we have much to learn from them.

I am profoundly grateful to you for sharing your story, and dare I say, that may have been the only time I wished I were at SeaWorld- how times have changed. To a continuation of changing times, retirement for ‘The San Diego 10’ –


Robert Anderson May 7, 2014 at 7:24 am

I really understand those dual emotions. I hadn’t visited for months and was moving far enough away to make visits impractical, so I went for a last goodbye. The orca who greeted me did something so endearing as to never be forgotten, also so adrenalizing I was buzzing the rest of the day. That was the only time a SeaWorld monitor ever said anything to me. That evening we had a quieter meeting. The orca caught my mood, and I believe understood this was goodbye. We were both pretty sad. I went back a couple years later, but orcas were no longer in the petting pool. That was the last time I ever visited a SeaWorld.
PS: Russell below had his own quite interesting encounters.


Taj April 30, 2014 at 9:12 am

Kasatka has become one of my favorites in San Diego, though I love them all- Kastaka’s motherly instinct & willfull nature remind me of my favorite qualities in any woman-
Thank you for this piece- This entire series is wonderful- I am so proud that San Diego is making this statement.



Russell Hockins May 6, 2014 at 4:37 pm

I also had the privilege of getting to know the four Orcas in the petting pool at Sea World San Diego. At the time I wanted to be a trainer but getting to know them without the restrictions of being a trainer or having to work for the park changed my mind about wanting to be a trainer and the captivity of all Cetaceans not just Orcas. I no longer visit the parks despite still having some Cetaceans friends there so as not to support their captivity

I’ve also worked on three different interspecies communications projects including Lilly’s JANUS (Joint Analog Numerical Understanding System) project. I learned how intelligent/sapient they really are and that captivity is no place for any of them. I have some photos in a Facebook photo album of some of my encounters with them over the years.



Robyn Waayers May 7, 2014 at 8:02 am

I was 14 in 1980 and spent a huge amount of time at the petting pool, getting to know Kotar and Kasatka quite well. Oddly, I don’t remember bumping into Bob (Anderson) or Russell, although we know each other now, but there were plenty of other “regulars” then that I did get to know. Some of them were highly cynical of Sea World’s ultimate motives, even then , and that rubbed off on me, so I’ve always looked at Sea World as first a foremost a money-making institution, and barely a scientific entity (they have happily twisted the science of cetacean biology to make themselves look benign to the public for many years). But regarding the whales, they were amazingly intelligent and special, and that was a very important time in my life, when I was privileged to get to know them as friends. Too bad it had to happen at their expense…


Martha Sullivan May 13, 2014 at 12:14 pm

VOTERS: For San Diego County Supervisor, District 4 (Ron Roberts, 24 year incumbent virtually unopposed) — Write In “Kasatka Orca” — she’s lived in the District for 35 years and is a single, working mom!


Cara May 13, 2014 at 1:18 pm

Thank you, Robyn, Russell and Robert for your unique perspectives and stories about getting to know these gentle giants as your friends. I so wish we could all have these experiences with them when they are free from prison some day. You have only affirmed what so many of believe and know–that these beings are profoundly intelligent and sensitive beyond what we ever imagined. Realizing what they have experienced and continue to experience epitomizes a kind of cruelty words really cannot define. Please keep on sharing your stories with the world. They need to be told and seen in every way.
With all my heart I thank you…


Robyn Waayers May 13, 2014 at 1:31 pm

Thanks Cara — your kind words mean a lot : )

There might be a web site in the future, to showcase our observations, and perhaps others, as well…


Robert Anderson May 13, 2014 at 2:14 pm

Thanks, also Cara. I’ve enjoyed reading your articles. You really put a lot of care and research into them.

We do hope that others who knew these orcas will someday see our [future] website and come forward with their own memories.


Gail Ryan November 17, 2014 at 10:28 am

I believe 100% SeaWorld is a miserable live for all their captive Orcas and dolphins!! I am boycotting SeaWorld and all that have captive cetaceans!!! Gail Ryan San Andreas CA


Robert Anderson November 17, 2014 at 1:29 pm

Howard Garrett along with commenters Robert, Robyn, and Russell above have a petition to revoke SeaWorld’s accreditation with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, among other things. If you would care to read and sign, you can find it at http://www.orcanetwork.org/Main/index.php?categories_file=AZA%20petition.

They have also jointly published an article titled “SeaWorld’s Orcas Deserve a Retirement Plan”, which you can find by Googling.


Lauren May 28, 2015 at 6:10 am

I think SeaWorld IS a miserable place for dolphins, killer whales, and other underwater sea creatures they put them in captivity just to make money and they put them in captivity because so people don’ t have to go to the ocean to see a sea animal. Captivity is a horrible thing to do to animals except if they’re endangered. If animals are in captivity then they have less years to live.


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