The heartbreaking story of the world’s ‘sadest’ SeaWorld orca, Corky, who lost all 7 of her babies in a ‘cruel’ inbreeding program

A SEAWORLD orca dubbed the “world’s saddest” has spent the last 48 years in a concrete tank and lost all of its seven calves.

Corky the killer whale was snatched from her family in 1969 before finally being relocated to SeaWorld San Diego in 1987 and is believed to be the longest-lived orca in captivity.

Corky, 52, has spent the last 48 years of her life in captivity


Corky, 52, has spent the last 48 years of her life in captivityPhoto credit: ABC
Corky performed during SeaWorld's Killer Whale awareness presentation in 2017


Corky performed during SeaWorld’s Killer Whale awareness presentation in 2017Credit: Alamy
She was retrieved from her capsule on the coast of British Columbia in 1969


She was retrieved from her capsule on the coast of British Columbia in 1969Photo credit: ABC

Animal charity PETA has campaigned for the animal to be released in a sanctuary, as they believe it suffered years of “abuse” by SeaWorld trainers.

The killer whale has now spent 48 years of its life in captivity – often in a concrete tank smaller than the size of an Olympic-size swimming pool.

Corky, 52, is partially blind in one eye with worn teeth and failing kidneys and is often seen swimming around in endless circles, PETA says.

The whale has also lost all of its seven babies in captivity in two captive breeding programs – with all of its young calves dying before reaching adulthood.

Horror death of SeaWorld's killer whale spurting blood from blowhole
Horror moment TWO killer whales from SeaWorld attempt to drown a trainer

She bred six youngsters at the now-closed Marineland in California – where she was said to have been inseminated with her own cousin’s seed.

Her last baby, born at SeaWorld, was found dead at the bottom of her tank in 1987.

Things only got worse for Corky when, in August 1989, she was attacked by another female orca who was overly protective of her calf.

SeaWorld Killer Whale Kandu launched at full speed towards Corky during a live performance before dying from her horrific injuries and spurting blood from her blowhole for 45 minutes.

Corky would become a surrogate mother to Kandu’s calf, Orkid – the only chance she would get to experience motherhood.

Due to the plight of the orca and other animals in SeaWorld’s care, animal rights activists have targeted the park for years.

They have been accused of exploiting animals for financial gain, taking them from their natural habitats and “forcing” them to perform before a cheering crowd.

SeaWorld has always firmly denied the claims, saying that releasing Corky back into the wild would be a “death sentence” as she would no longer be able to fend for herself.

They told The Sun Online that Corky receives the best care at the park and after many years in captivity she is unprepared for dangers in the wild.

Corky currently lives in the park with eight other orcas while various animal welfare groups fight to have her released into the wild.


In 1969, off the coast of British Columbia, Vancouver, a four-year-old Corky was snatched from her mother’s side along with two others for her school – an unnamed man and a woman later named Patches.

They were sold to Marineland of the Pacific, California, where she received her name and was kept in a tank with a male orca – Orky, believed to be her cousin.

They remained together for the next seventeen years and she was the first killer whale to give birth in captivity in 1977.

However, the calf was unable to drink and died of pneumonia 11 days later.

Corky and Orky would have six calves together, with the eldest surviving just 46 days.

In 1987, Corky was sold to SeaWorld, where she was re-inseminated before the calf was found dead on the bottom of her aquarium.

Despite her pain, she showed few signs of aggression and worked with trainers to become one of the park’s mainstays – even inheriting the stage name “Shamu”.

Corky with her first calf, the first killer whale to be bred in captivity - the baby would survive just 11 days


Corky with her first calf, the first killer whale to be bred in captivity – the baby would survive just 11 daysPhoto credit: Getty
Corky is believed to now be living in a pool no larger than an Olympic-sized pool


Corky is believed to now be living in a pool no larger than an Olympic-sized poolCredit: Alamy
Killer whale Kandu squirting blood from blowhole after'suicidal attack' on another orca


Killer whale Kandu squirting blood from blowhole after ‘suicidal attack’ on another orcaCredit: Unknown, clear with picture desk

In August 1980, Corky and another younger whale, Orkid, took part in a joint performance in front of a packed stadium.

Orkid’s dominant mother, Kandu, stayed in one of the side tanks but became jealous of the pair’s closeness.

Suddenly, Kandu entered the show pool and swam after the larger female, ramming her at full speed and mouth open.

Although Corky was fine, Kandu broke her jaw and severed a major artery in her nasal passages.

She died with blood spurting from her blowhole in front of horrified onlookers.

This isn’t the first time a killer whale has died in SeaWorld’s care – at least 43 have died at the attraction.

In 2019, SeaWorld Orlando announced that an orca named Kayla had died of “lung disease” and gave no further details about her death.

That same year, a pilot whale named Fredi died after “persistent health problems,” becoming the fourth to die in just three years.

Tikilum the killer whale also killed three SeaWorld trainers, with experts attributing its “psychotic” behavior to its 30 years in captivity.


PETA is now lobbying to have Corky released into the wild so she can enjoy a better quality of life.

Unfortunately, Corky’s mother, who remained in the wild, died in 2000, but many of her relatives still swim in the same area.

A team of experts have identified a large holding area that would serve to slowly return Corky to their natural habitat and encourage them to start hunting for themselves.

PETA told The Sun Online: “Corky’s heartbreaking story is the perfect example of why wild animals don’t belong in marine parks.

“From thriving in her ocean home to being dubbed ‘the saddest orca alive’, Corky has seen everything that was natural and important to her stripped away.

“This includes her calves, all seven of whom died within 47 days of birth.

“Since the day she was taken from her home, her life has been one of hardship, pain and loss.

“PETA is urging SeaWorld to undo some of the damage it has done by releasing Corky and the other animals it holds captive to marine sanctuaries where they may have a glimpse of the life that was taken from them.”

SeaWorld told The Sun Online that the accredited zoological park has nearly 60 years of experience caring for orca, with dedicated veterinarians and specialists.

They said: “Corky receives a standard of care that exceeds that set by government agencies and is consistent with that provided by independent, third-party animal welfare groups who oversee and support the care of animals in accredited zoos and aquariums.

“The knowledge she has gained from her care and study in our accredited zoological setting helps researchers, scientists and veterinarians better understand and conserve these majestic animals in the wild.

They go on to say that SeaWorld supports killer whale conservation projects through National Fish, the Wildlife Foundation’s Killer Whale Conservation Program, and the SeaWorld Conservation Fund.

They also added: “Marine Protected Areas are not a viable option for Corky. We are not aware of any built that could be evaluated as an option.

“Dwelling in the sea would expose them to a range of health hazards – bacteria, viruses, pollution, poor water quality – that Corky is not exposed to in human care and that their immune systems may not be able to cope with.

“To our knowledge, there are no marine protected areas with the consistent financial funding and experienced full-time veterinary care required to ensure the long-term health and care of an orca.

“It is the professional opinion of our veterinarian that a marine sanctuary would result in a significant risk to Corky’s health and well-being and would not be in their best interest.”

Kandu performed at SeaWorld before her death in 1987


Kandu performed at SeaWorld before her death in 1987Photo credit: naturally wild / Orcaholic The heartbreaking story of the world’s ‘sadest’ SeaWorld orca, Corky, who lost all 7 of her babies in a ‘cruel’ inbreeding program


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