6-year-old orca at SeaWorld San Diego dies suddenly leaving caretakers heartbroken

The youngest orca at SeaWorld San Diego animal theme park has died suddenly, leaving those who cared for her heartbroken.

On Wednesday, Amaya, the 6-year-old orca, started showing signs of an illness so animal care specialists and veterinarians began treating her, SeaWorld said in a statement.

Almost 24 hours later, SeaWorld said, she died with her animal care specialists by her side.

“Despite her care team’s efforts, Amaya’s condition continued to decline rapidly. Her death was sudden and unexpected,” SeaWorld said.

The name Amaya means “night rain,” the website said, and credited the young whale with helping SeaWorld “gather and share critical information about calf development for researchers studying wild populations.”

The exact cause of death is unknown but a post-mortem exam is being done and results may take several weeks, according to SeaWorld.

Amaya lived at SeaWorld with her mother Kalia and father Ulises. She was said to be one of the most playful whales in the pod and loved interacting with her animal care specialists.

The orcas in SeaWorld’s care are the last generation of the mammals to be enclosed at the water parks.

SeaWorld said it was moving away from theatrical killer whale shows and moving toward educational programs.