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Bubbles, SeaWorld's Long-Adored Pilot Whale, Has Died

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RIP Bubbles (Courtesy of SeaWorld San Diego)
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One of SeaWorld San Diego's most adored animals, Bubbles, a pilot whale who had lived at the park for nearly 30 years, has died.No cause of death was announced in SeaWorld's statement, but the L.A. Times reports that Bubbles was in her mid-50s, and therefore considered "geriatric," as most female pilot whales live to be about 60. It was believed that Bubbles was the oldest pilot whale living in a "zoological park."

According to the San Diego Union Tribune, Bubbles had been at SeaWorld for nearly 30 years. Prior to her arrival at the park, she spent 20 years as a "performer" (ugh) at the now-defunct Marineland of the Pacific in Palos Verdes, which closed in the late 1980s.

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Bubbles performs a trick at the now-closed Marineland of the Pacific in 1961. (Photo by Brad Smith via the Creative Commons on Flickr)
The Times notes that veterinarians at SeaWorld were unavailable for questions about the condition of Bubbles' health prior to her death.

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The SeaWorld website writes that pilot whales are actually members of the dolphin family, despite their misleading name, who swim in pods of 20 to 90 animals, and can dive to depths of over 1,000 feet—at speeds of nearly 20 miles per hour. They're likely called "pilot whales" because the pods are typically led by one leader whale, who's designated as the "pilot."

In March, SeaWorld announced that they would stop breeding killer whales, a decision likely spurred on my public outcry over SeaWorld's practices that were exposed in the 2013 documentary Blackfish. Last year, the park also said they would stop holding killer whale shows.