Sea World in San Diego has confirmed that an 11-year-old killer whale, named Nakai, suffered a lower jaw injury last week while interacting with other killer whales during a nighttime show.
When asked Thursday to confirm the incident, communications director David Koontz issued a statement saying the injury occurred Sept. 20.
Part of the statement reads: "It is believed Nakai’s injury occurred when he came in contact with a portion of the pool environment. He was quickly treated by park veterinarians. Nakai is currently receiving antibiotics and the veterinarians are pleased with the healing progress of his wound. He is swimming comfortably and interacting with the other killer whales at the Shamu Stadium pool complex."
The severity of Nakai's injury was not addressed in the statement. However, writer Tim Zimmermann on Thursday stated on his website that he had learned that "a dinner plate-size chunk of his lower mandible" had been sheared off during what appeared to have been an altercation between killer whales, or orcas. Zimmerman later posted graphic images showing a very serious wound.
"In response to the altercation, Nakai split to the back pool," Zimmermann wrote. "The onstage trainers, not realizing how badly injured he was, continued the show with the other whales. It was only when they called Nakai over later that night that they realized he was seriously hurt."
Koontz did not reply when asked, via email, to confirm the accuracy of Zimmermann's post.
Nakai was the first captive orca conceived and successfully born through artificial insemination. At 11, he's at the age when orcas enter puberty.
--Image showing Nakai is from three years ago