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Whale’s Death At SeaWorld San Diego Sparks Debate

The death of a 38-year-old beluga whale Thursday at SeaWorld San Diego revived debate about the aquatic park, with dueling comments in social media and criticism from a prominent animal-rights group.

SeaWorld's contention that the whale named Ruby lived longer than the 32.8-year average was called "more lies" by Twitter user ChrisReburn. "No - They can easily live 50 years!"

"If there's a heaven, Ruby's in it," wrote Ashley Palmer on the website of PETA — People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. "If not, nothingness beats living in misery at SeaWorld as this beluga has done for the past 17 years."

Reviving the anti-captivity refrain of the documentary "Blackfish," Palmer said Ruby was captured at age 2 "and separated from her loving pod forever — all to satisfy an amusement park owner's greed."

SeaWorld declined Friday to add details on the whale's death.

"We are, however, delighted by all the loving and heartwarming comments made by our fans on our Facebook page," spokesman David Koontz told City News Service.

On Facebook, one fan said, "goodbye sweet girl. You are the screensaver on my phone."

Another posted, "rest in peace, Sweet Ruby! Your service to our country and inspiration to animal lovers young and old will always be treasured!"

Koontz called PETA an extremist organization "that is more interested in publicity stunts and issuing meritless statements than helping animals. The truth is that our animals at SeaWorld are healthy and happy."

He said that "most people recognize that SeaWorld, not PETA, is the real animal welfare organization."

Ruby lived at SeaWorld for 17 years as part of the Wild Arctic attraction. She came to SeaWorld San Diego from another zoological organization in 1997, and in 2010 gave birth to another female beluga whale.

According to park officials, a necropsy will be performed to help determine the cause of death, but it will be several weeks before the results are received.

Wild Arctic now has five beluga whales on exhibit.

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