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Tragic story of Kandu the killer whale who died in front of horrified crowd

Darcy Rafter May 30, 2022
A Look Inside SeaWorld San Diego
Photo by Daniel Knighton/Getty Images

One of the most infamous incidents at an aquarium occurred when killer whale Kandu V died in front of an audience at SeaWorld San Diego. A video from the event shows the pool water fill with Kandu’s blood and in a photo shared by The Ocean Preservation Society, blood can be seen spurting from the whale’s blowhole. So what happened and had Kandu been at the centre of controversy before?

Keeping orcas in captivity like Kandu V can to lead to aggression, the MDPI claims via research. However, SeaWorld insists its animals receive specialist care and have enacted a number of new regulations.

Keeping orcas in captivity remains a much-debated topic, so let’s take a look at the story of Kandu V…

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Photo by Daniel Knighton/Getty Images

Kandu the killer whale

Kandu V was a 14-year-old female orca who was captured off the coast of Iceland on 12 October 1977. On Monday, 21 August 1989, Kandu V was performing in a 4pm ‘Shamu Show’ alongside another female killer whale, Corky II.

Sea World veterinarian Jim McBain told the LA Times: “The altercation was initiated by Kandu. She was asserting her dominance by going after Corky with her mouth open.” He also revealed Kandu weighed only about 4,600lb compared with Corky, who weighed 7,000lb.

Kandu V was very protective of her 11-month calf, Orkid, and became angry when Corky got close to her daughter, leading Kandu to try to “rake” her. This is when killer whales show dominance by scratching at one another with their teeth.

As Kandu V tried to rake the larger female, she missed and ended up slamming into a wall, severing a major artery in her nasal passages and fracturing her jaw.

It took a while for SeaWorld workers to discover her injuries but, when she began spouting blood from her blowhole, the crowd was asked to leave. Kandu was 14 when she died and, although the incident only lasted five seconds, it took 45 minutes for Kandu V to die from the haemorrhage. Corky suffered minor cuts from the attack and, following Kandu’s death, Orkid was placed with her.

Photo by Mike Aguilera/SeaWorld San Diego via Getty Images

Kandu the killer whale’s history of aggression

Kandu V had a history of aggression and was involved in five incidents in the years before her death, The Sun reports.

The UK newspaper stated that on 23 February 1984, Kandu V took trainer Joanne Hay in her mouth and pinned her against the wall during a show. In November the same year, the killer whale briefly grabbed the legs of trainer Georgia Jones during a show but released the trainer unhurt.

On 4 March 1987, Kandu V took trainer Jonathan Smith, 21, in her mouth during a show and momentarily refused to let go, as well as pushing Smith to the bottom of the tank.

On 15 June 1987, Kandu V landed on top of Joanne Webber and pushed her to the bottom of the pool during a training session, the trainer suffered a broken neck.

Trainers have not been allowed in the water to train or perform with killer whales at SeaWorld since 2010.

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Darcy is an experienced journalist passionate about celebrity culture and entertainment. After gaining a degree in Media and Communications at Goldsmiths University she has also become a social media specialist, always keeping informed on the latest trends. With almost five years of experience in media, her expertise is analysing platforms such as Instagram, Twitter and TikTok. When she's not tracking the latest trending content, she’s watching films and eating lots of chocolate.