Male orca Nakai, born at SeaWorld San Diego in 2001, has died of an infection, park officials said Friday.
SeaWorld announced Nakai’s death, which happened Thursday night, on Facebook.
The orca, officials wrote, was “surrounded by the animal care and medical teams who had worked closely with him for 20 years.”
“Every attempt was made to save his life. Veterinarians and health specialists had been actively treating an infection, but aggressive therapeutic and diagnostic efforts were unsuccessful,” they went on to say.
In the post officials called Nakia “a curious and quick learner” and said he participated in hearing studies to help scientists better understand how noise from ships and other human activity affected orcas.
“His contributions to helping improve the health and survival of whales in the wild cannot be underestimated and will never be forgotten,” they wrote.
One of his caregivers, the park noted, called Nakia “a joy to care for and learn from … I will miss him greatly.”
According to the Associated Press, eight killer whales remain at SeaWorld, with an age range from 9 to 57 years old.
Under pressure from activists and dealing with fallout from the documentary “Blackfish,” SeaWorld said in 2016 that it would stop breeding orcas.
The 2013 film focused on Tilikum, an orca that killed a trainer in 2010 by dragging her into a pool at SeaWorld’s Florida park.