An 11-year-old orca whale at SeaWorld in San Diego suffered a severe injury to its jaw, resulting in criticism from PETA.
Nakai, one of three whales, at SeaWorld San Diego had a serious injury, as noted by Tim Zimmerman of Outside magazine. Zimmerman described the injury as a "dinner plate-sized chunk" of flesh missing from the whale's lower jaw.
To see photos of the injury, check out the Daily Mail.
It was not clear if the whale suffered the injury because of an incident involving other whales or if it had a run-in with the tank.
"The rumour suggests that he may have been trying to get over the chains that SeaWorld has erected and has ripped the tissue down to the bone," Zimmerman wrote originally.
According to the Daily Mail, Zimmerman later said the injury was caused by other whales.
"It happened last week during a night show, seemingly during a major altercation involving Nakai, Keet, and Ike," Zimmerman said. "It's not clear if there was an aggressor or instigator, or if they all suddenly went after each other."
"In response to the altercation, Nakai split to the back pool. The onstage trainers, not realizing how badly injured he was, continued the show with the other whales," Zimmerman continued. "It was only when they called Nakai over later that night that they realized he was seriously hurt."
After seeing the report and the photos of the whale's injury, animal rights group, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) filed a complaint to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. They argue against Sea World, saying that they violated the Animal Welfare Act, which requires orcas that don't get along to be kept in separate places.
"The AWA makes it clear that marine mammals that are not compatible must not be housed in the same enclosure," a PETA spokesperson said, according to the Daily Mail.
"Yet SeaWorld parks have a long history of housing incompatible orcas from widely divergent groups together in enclosures - and the result has been stress, agitation, aggressive and bloody raking, serious injury, and death," the spokesperson continued.
On Friday, SeaWorld confirmed that Nakai received the injury during a performance on Sept. 20, but they did not say how the injury occurred.
While the injury may look gruesome, SeaWorld insists that Nakai is doing well.
"Nakai is currently receiving antibiotics and the veterinarians are pleased with the healing progress of his wound,'' SeaWorld officials said in a statement. They said that he is "swimming comfortably and interacting with other killer whales."
While PETA believes the injury was caused by another whale, Dr. Nancy Anderson, veterinarian with the University of California Davis Wildlife Center and a former veterinarian at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom, told Fox that the whale's injury most likely occurred after it got caught on something and tried to pull away. She says the injury is too smooth to be caused by another whale.