Bjossa the Orca is Dead
UPDATE: Whitewings, who was Bjossa's companion for many years before she was moved to SeaWorld, has died in captivity at Vancouver Aquarium.
Bjossa the orca, moved from Vancouver Aquarium to Seaworld San Diego, is dead. Bjossa was featured extensively in CAPS Release magazine and on our website after CAPS Director Diane Westwood saw her when she visited Vancouver Aquarium in October 1999.
The following newspaper accounts were sent to CAPS by Annelise Sorg from Coalition for No Whales in Captivity, based in Vancouver.
Bjossa dies at SeaWorld after long illness
Frank Luba, Vancouver Province
Tuesday, October 9, 2001
Changing her treatment yesterday wasn't enough to save Bjossa, the ailing killer whale relocated in April from the Vancouver Aquarium to San Diego's SeaWorld.
The 25-year-old orca died late in the afternoon after what SeaWorld spokesman Bob Tucker called "a last ditch change in treatment."
Bjossa has been suffering from a chronic respiratory ailment during her last days in Vancouver. After seemingly adjusting to life in California, she had what Tucker termed "a near-death experience" August 20 but survived. Then this weekend SeaWorld staff noticed a change in Bjossa's behaviour.
"She became more lethargic," said Tucker.
An autopsy was carried out last night but Tucker said the results won't be available for several weeks. Vancouver Aquarium spokeswoman Angela Nielsen sent out a short press release on the death yesterday. A press conference is planned for today.
"We're obviously deeply saddened by the news," said Nielsen.
But the news was what the Coalition For No Whales In Captivity had predicted. Longtime Coalition spokeswoman Annelise Sorg was too overcome with emotion to speak to the media. But Doug Imbeau, another Coalition spokesman, blasted the aquarium for its treatment of Bjossa.
"The Coalition and Annelise have said for quite some time that the aquarium was pawning Bjossa off on SeaWorld," said Imbeau.
The bad publicity of Bjossa's death is minimized because it happened at SeaWorld, which has nine other killer whales all named Shamu, said Imbeau.
"A Shamu never dies, is what happens in San Diego," he said. "We've cut at least 50 years out of her life expectancy by stuffing her in a bathtub."
Chronic lung infection claims killer whale
Chris Nuttall-Smith, Vancouver Sun
Tuesday, October 9, 2001
Bjossa, the female killer whale who lived at the Vancouver Aquarium for 20 years before being transferred last April to SeaWorld in San Diego, has died.
The Vancouver Aquarium announced in a brief news release that Bjossa died late Monday afternoon. The statement said SeaWorld will conduct a post-mortem in the coming weeks to determine the exact cause of death, but Bjossa suffered a chronic lung infection for more than a year and a half.
SeaWorld spokesman Bob Tucker said the 2,500-kilogram orca died in a behind-the-scenes pool where she had been moved when her lung infection worsened in August.
"Over the weekend she became lethargic and her diet decreased and (Monday), despite our best efforts to try and turn her around, she took a turn for the worst and passed away," Tucker said. "She just went real quick and we don't think there was a whole lot of pain or anything. We're obviously very saddened and our hearts go out to the folks in Vancouver who had a longtime relationship with her."
The whale's transfer to Sea World ended an era for the Vancouver Aquarium, which until last spring had had a captive killer whale program for 30 years. Aquarium staff had tried to find a companion for Bjossa, but were prevented by park board rules from buying a whale caught in the wild.
Aquarium president John Nightingale said in an interview last August that several offers came in to buy the whale, whose economic value as a draw for aquarium visitors had been estimated at $1 million Cdn. Nightingale said facilities in France, Japan and the U.S. were willing to pay for Bjossa, but her welfare came first, and each offer had drawbacks that made him uncomfortable enough to refuse. She was later given, not sold, to the San Diego facility.
Fred Jacobs, a SeaWorld spokesman, said at the time that Bjossa would take on the name "Shamu," and would perform tricks and join SeaWorld's breeding program. But by August, the whale was seriously ill. Trainers in San Diego alerted Vancouver Aquarium staff about Bjossa's poor health in early August, after a low-grade respiratory condition began to worsen. The aquarium's Monday news release said Bjossa's health had been improving recently.
"With the help of antibiotics and round-the-clock care, Bjossa's behaviour and appetite showed improvement over the past several weeks, but her overall chronic condition never improved," the statement said.
Doug Imbeau, a spokesman for the Coalition for No Whales in Captivity, said the move to San Diego was too traumatic for Bjossa, who had to share her new home with eight other whales and become accustomed to new trainers.
"Someone like Bjossa who should have lived certainly into her 70s or probably into her 90s in the wild is dead in her 20s, a very, very young victim of captivity," he said.
During her years in Vancouver, which began in 1980, Bjossa gave birth to three calves, all of whom died. The longest-lived was K'yosha, born in 1992, who lived 97 days.