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The death of Skana, the world-famous killer whale that...

VANCOUVER -- The death of Skana, the world-famous killer whale that delighted tourists and Vancouverites for 13 years with her daily aquabatic shows, may have been caused by cancer.

But an official at the Vancouver Public Aqaurium in Stanley Park said Monday the official autopsy results were not expected to be released until late this week or early next week.

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The 18-year-old whale, which performed for about six million persons over the past 13 years, died Sunday morning.

Her death came about the same time aquarium personnel were preparing her daily medical check, which had been routine since she became ill with a vaginal infection two weeks ago.

Aquarium director Dr. Murray Newman said the autopsy found extensive lesions in certain muscles, lungs and pancreas.

'It's very surprising,' Newman said. 'We thought the primary problem was the acute infection.

'We're unable to evaluate the significance of these lesions as yet. It's possible the lesions were cancerous. That's as far as they could go in their analysis at the present time.'

Tissue samples were sent to laboratories in Ottawa and the U.S.

The aquarium has no plans to replace Skana. Hyak, a male killer whale who joined Skana at the aquarium in 1970, will take her place for the time being.

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Skana was captured near Seattle in 1967 by a crew from the Seattle Marine Aquarium. A month later she was purchased by the Vancouver aquarium for $27,000 and named Skana, which is the Haida Indian term for killer whale.

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