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Tragic cases of world’s loneliest animals from cub abandoned by mum after twin died to elephant chained up for 35 years

SMASHING her head repeatedly against the glass of her small enclosure, 'loneliest killer whale in the world' Kiska mourns the loss of her five tragic children.

Having outlived her offspring, it seems the loss is too much for the lonely whale, whose actions were this week revealed after being filmed at MarineLand, Canada by anti-captivity activist Phil Demers.


The clip shocked the world and left animal lovers reeling, with activists noting its similarity to the sad tale of another killer whale called Hugo who, in 1980, "committed suicide" by ramming his head against his tank.

Born in the wild, Hugo was said to be so unhappy in captivity at the Miami Seaquarium in Florida that he repeatedly bashed himself to the point where he suffered a brain aneurysm and died.

Here we shine a light on the other tragic animals who are among the loneliest on the planet, from a lion left to starve to death to a polar bear abandoned by its mum…

Nowhere to hide

Hugo was the tank mate of another famous orca called Lolita, who has spent over 40 years alone since he died aged 15 – around half his natural lifespan in the wild.

At 54, she is the second oldest whale in captivity, having been snared 50 years ago aged four in Penn Cove, Washington, and is still subject to long running legal battles as activists rally for her release.

According to PETA, Lolita lives in the smallest orca tank in the world which is only four times the length of her body and just 20 feet deep at its deepest point.

The animal rights group claim she is incompatible with the dolphins she is confined with and is regularly injured by them.

They allegedly regularly 'rake' her, scraping her skin with their teeth, leaving her anxious and agitated.

PETA also highlighted that the lack of shade her tank provides causes her skin to burn, causing it to crack and bleed.

Lolita's trainers have said she's showed signs of obsessive behaviour, dubbed "zoochosis", which includes swimming in a repetitive pattern and rubbing herself against the sides of her tank.

Too much to bear

Sadly these tragic orcas are not the only creatures to have a seemingly bleak existence.

For the first 11 years of her life, brown bear Jambolina was cooped up in a tiny cage in a squalid garage in Ukraine, and forced to perform in the circus.

According to charity Four Paws, she was torn away from her mother and sold at a young age, spending her time alone in an enclosure so small she could barely move.

Animal campaigners said the techniques used to train her to perform tricks for crowds were a form of torture.

Heartbreakingly, during that time she didn't even see another bear, until she was rescued and taken to a sanctuary in Switzerland, where she hit it off with another bear called Meimo.

Sadly Jambolina's taste of freedom was short-lived, and she died during surgery to repair her teeth last month.  


A companion made of concrete

When wildlife officials built a colony of concrete gannet birds on the island of Mana in a bid to entice a new – real – flock, only one bird named Nigel accepted the invite.

He arrived on the island in 2015 and was its first gannet in over 40 years, but sadly none of his pals joined him.

He therefore lived out his days with one of the 80 fake models.

He built the concrete character a nest and groomed her "feathers", before he sadly died next to her three years later in 2018.

Starving to death

Stuck in a rusty, urine and blood-soaked cage, the life of the nameless lion trapped in a war-torn Yemen Zoo just three miles from the frontline was decidedly bleak.

The poor male was reduced to skin and bone, and was alone after 12 other lions and six leopards succumbed to starvation.

The poor lion's plight was first uncovered in 2016, with charity worker Bassam Al-Hakimi at the time saying: "Many of the animals are very sad.

"When I stand in front of the cage, and hear the sad roar of the lion, and I see his desperate looks, this breaks my heart."

Sadly it is not known what happened to him, but there have been many organisations who worked tirelessly to rescue the zoo's animals.

Abandoned at birth

While polar bears are generally rather solitary, polar bear cub Nora was left to fend for herself at just six days old when she was abandoned by her mum Aurora at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.

In the wild, a mother polar bear wouldn't leave the den even to eat, and tragically Nora's twin brother had already died two days after their birth.

It meant Nora's fate was left in the hands of a team of veterinarians and zookeepers, and she grew up hugging a teddy bear for comfort in the care of her human guardians.

She went on to have a book written about her, The Loneliest Polar Bear: A True Story of Survival and Peril on the Edge of a Warming World.

When she got older and too big and dangerous for her keepers to interact with, she was introduced to another bear called Tasul.

However, unaccustomed to other bears, initially she became distressed and squealed, throwing tantrums when her keepers left her alone.

Thankfully with the help of aptly named polar bear Hope, Nora gradually became acclimatised to her own species and now lives at Oregon Zoo, where she's set to welcome a new companion this autumn according to Fox 13.

Kept in chains for 35 years

After tragedy, sometimes there is a happy ending, as happened with Kaavan the elephant who was rescued after activists and singer Cher got involved in his plight.

The 35-year-old elephant had lived alone, reportedly kept in chains, following the death of his only companion Saheli in 2012.

Wildlife experts said he'd started to show symptoms of mental illness and aggression before he was rescued last year.

Now Kaavan lives at a sanctuary in Cambodia, with a Pakistani government minister saying the move would "free this elephant with a kind heart, and will ensure he lives a happy life".

Distressed donkey

Donkeys thrive in the company of others, so when 14-year-old Topper lost companion Amber to cancer, his owner quickly became concerned for his wellbeing.

Owner Sarah-Jane Newton, from Wiltshire, told Horse and Hound: “Topper was clearly in distress at being on his own and I was extremely concerned for his welfare, even to the extent that the whole family slept out in the garden summerhouse right next to his stable, just to keep him company at night."

Thankfully Topper was introduced to new playmate Dolly, and the pair bonded "almost immediately".

Donkey welfare advisor Justine Thomas added: "Donkeys form strong and long-lasting friendships and much prefer the company of their own kind, so it was very important that we found Topper a new donkey companion. Dolly turned out to be the perfect partner."

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