Following last week's flooding that damaged 90% of its site, Marineland Antibes has today released the tragic news that one of its captive male orca known as Valentin has died. The post announced (translated using Google Translate) that: All Marineland teams are extremely sad to announce today, Monday, October 12 at 12pm, the death of Valentin, a killer whale born in the park. We experienced an extremely difficult and unprecedented situation last week and have made every effort to secure the infrastructure devastated by the weather. Trainers, experts and emergency services did everything to save the animals and secure facilities. We have at this time no explanation on the cause of death, we will do everything to understand. Analyses will be conducted by a team of veterinary experts.
Valentin, who was born at Marineland Antibes on February 13th 1996, is the second orca to have died at the French entertainment facility this year. His mother Freya, a wild-caught Icelandic orca, died in June from a long, unidentified illness. She was in her early thirties. His wild-caught Icelandic father, Kim 2, died at Marineland Antibes in November 2005 at 23-24 years of age. Valentin was only 19 years-old.
In the wild, male orca have an average life-expectancy of 29.2 years and can live as long as 50-60 years, (females have an average life-expectancy of 50.2 years and can live for more than 90 years). Male orca survival has also been linked with the survival of their mothers in some free-ranging populations.
Valentin's dorsal fin was partially collapsed and would have likely fully collapsed in time. He was intermittently put on medication for safety during orca water work sessions (he was aggressive towards his trainers on several occasions), as well as to curb excessive sexual behaviours with his half sister and brother, Wikie and Inouk, as well as his own mother, Freya. Semen samples were also collected from Valentin as part of the facility's Artificial Insemination programme. Valentin displayed several stereotypic behaviours (abnormal, repetitive behaviours indicative of stress), including burping, chewing concrete and bumping his head against tank walls and gates. He also had a pronounced skin condition on his chin.
Valentin leaves behind four captive-born Icelandic orca at Marineland Antibes. Inouk, Wikie and Wikie's two calves, Moana and Keijo, are still at risk of infection and other health problems as a result of the dirty water in their tanks caused by the flooding and the facility's notoriously ineffective water filtration system.
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Former SeaWorld & Marineland Antibes trainer John Hargrove talks about his time working in France