ISSN 1063-0740, Russian Journal of Marine Biology, 2007, Vol. 33, No. 5, pp. 321–323. © Pleiades Publishing, Ltd., 2007.
Original Russian Text © E.I. Rozanova, A.Yu. Alekseev, A.V. Abramov, Yu.N. Rassadkin, A.M. Shestopalov, 2007, published in Biologiya Morya.
The Orca or killer whale,
1758 (Delphinidae: Cetacea) is the largest (males are
up to 9 m long and weight up to 5 tons; females are up
to 6 m long and weight up to 3 tons) and most beautiful
species of dolphin, remarkable for their striking black-
and-white appearance . It also differs from other
dolphins by its prominent sabreform back ﬁn. Orcas
inhabit all seas, from the coldest to the warmest ones
. The orca is not listed in the Red Book of the Rus-
sian Federation, but included in the Addendums of the
Convention of International Trade in Endangered Spe-
cies of Wild Fauna and Flora .
To date, 48 orcas (including 25 animals that were
born in captivity) inhabit the oceanariums of Japan,
USA, Canada, and Argentina. According to informa-
tion of the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society
(WDCS), since 1961, 134 orcas have been captured
from the wild for oceanariums and zoos, while only 24
of them are still alive. Many specimens died at an age
less than 20 years, although in the wild their lifespan is
up to 80 years and longer . In captivity most ani-
mals died because of stress or infective diseases.
In Russia orcas have never been maintained in zoos or
oceanariums, as there were neither appropriate facili-
ties available nor experience in capturing these animals.
The ﬁrst attempt to capture orcas in Russian waters
for purposes of scientiﬁc studied and education was
made in 2002, but all the animals escaped from the nets.
In 2003 the attempts to capture orcas were resumed.
On September 26, 2003 one orca was captured in
Avacha Gulf (Kamchatka); on October 6 it was deliv-
ered to the Utrish Marine Station (Black Sea, Krasno-
dar Province). However, the animal died in 13 days.
The target of this project was to reveal the cause of its
MATERIAL AND METHODS
On October 11, 2003, when the orca was still alive,
smears were taken from the blowhole. To reveal the
cause of death of the animal, on October 20 the orca
was dissected and visible pathological changes were
described. Samples of the lungs, liver, spleen, pancreas,
kidneys, and myocardium were taken for examination.
To reveal antibodies against morbilliviruses in the
blood serum, a kit for Enzyme-Linked Immuno Sorbent
Assay (ELISA) was used containing a commercial anti-
gen and species-speciﬁc conjugate . The necessity to
use such a test-system for identiﬁcation of all mor-
billiviruses was determined by the fact that serological
overlapping in the members of the genus
is very high and equals about 95% . Classical
immunoenzyme and immunohistochemical methods
[12, 13] were used to reveal morbillivirus antigens in
the tissues of different organs. A species-speciﬁc serum
was used, with polyclonal antibodies tagged with horse
radish peroxidase. Species speciﬁc serums were
obtained using standard techniques , after infection
of a rabbit with
27853 and ATCC 10145 (Russian State Scientiﬁc Insti-
tute of Control, Standardization and Certiﬁcation of
Veterinary Preparations, VGNKI).
Microbiological analysis and identiﬁcation of the
isolated bacterial culture was performed following
standard technique [7, 11] using commercial growth
Death of the Killer Whale
Pneumonia in 2003
E. I. Rozanova
, A. Yu. Alekseev
, A. V. Abramov
Yu. N. Rassadkin
, and A. M. Shestopalov
Utrish Dolphinarium, 119071 Moscow, Russia
Vektor State Research Center for Virology and Biotechnology, Rospotrebnadzor, Koltsovo, 630559 Russia
Received May 17, 2007
—A killer whale was captured in Avacha Gulf (Kamchatka) on September 26, 2003. It was transported
to the Utrish Sea Station (Black Sea) on October 6. However, the animal died in 13 days. As a result of micro-
biological analysis of the internal organs of dead animal, a bacterial culture was isolated that was identiﬁed as
The infection by this opportunistic pathogen caused abscessing pneumonia that
resulted in the death of the killer whale.
killer whale, microbiological analysis,