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August 17, 2000

Marine World Saddened By Loss Of Killer Whale Vigga

Vallejo, CA -- Vigga, a 23-year-old female killer whale at Six Flags Marine World, died on Monday, August 14 at approximately 8 p.m.

Marine World trainers who worked with Vigga over the years were shaken by the loss of an extradorinary animal companion. "The Park, and the trainers and veterinarians who were devoted to this wonderful whale, are devastated. We have lost a much-loved member of our Marine World family," said Six Flags Marine World spokesman Jeff Jouett.

An abnormal heart pathology resulting in a build-up of fluid in her pericardial sac, and an infection in one lung is the suspected cause of death, according to results of a necropsy conducted early this morning by pathologists and veterinarians from University of California at Davis, Six Flags Marine World and the Marine Mammal Center. The heart was taken to U.C. Davis for further study. Additional information awaits laboratory testing of fluid and tissue samples, expected to take approximately two weeks.

Vigga was a favorite of the more than 25 million people who have visited Marine World since her arrival in 1981. Routine blood analysis on the whale 10 days ago indicated internal inflammation from an unknown source. For the last 10 days, Six Flags Marine World veterinarians had been treating Vigga with antibiotics, after consulting with colleagues at Sea World and other oceanariums.

Vigga was born in 1977 near Iceland, and brought to Marine World, then located in Redwood City, in 1981. She made the move to the Park's new quarters in Vallejo in 1986. Vigga was over 16 feet long and weighed 5,000 pounds.

While at Marine World, Vigga played a key role in wildlife education, introducing tens of millions of people to the beauty and magnificence of her species. She also provided important data to marine researchers to help set safe limits for whale watching boats observing wild orcas, participated in whale reproductive hormone studies that will enable future breeding programs for endangered cetacean species, and provided biologists with baseline information on orca behavior, learning, memory and communication.

The average life span of killer whales at oceanariums and in the wild is about 25 years. Female orcas in the wild may live longer than males. In 1997, Marine World lost Yaka, a 32-year-old female, to a respiratory fungal infection.